Burnside Autocyl is a leading manufacturer of custom hydraulic cylinders for all types of mobile applications and is a member of the Burnside group of companies, one of the top hydraulic cylinder manufacturers in the world. The company is dedicated to supplying the OEM market with a broad range of high-quality hydraulic cylinders for a variety of diverse applications and is a supplier to many of the world’s largest mobile machinery manufacturing companies.
According to Caroline Kelly, Sales Director of Burnside Autocyl Ltd in Ireland; and the V.P. of Sales for Burnside America Inc in the U.S., there is a long tradition of engineering in the County Carlow region in South East Ireland where the business is headquartered, and the Burnside Group is still firmly rooted in this tradition.
“The business was started 45 years ago by the Byrne brothers; four ordinary guys from a traditional agricultural background with some industrial experience,” said Kelly. “The brothers saw an opportunity in the Irish market, and decided to set up a small business manufacturing hydraulic cylinders; the business has now grown to become one of the world’s largest and most respected manufacturers of hydraulic cylinders.”
Burnside Autocyl operates several separate businesses within County Carlow and has sales offices in France and Germany. Kelly explained that the company has always had a goal of establishing a presence in the U.S. market, which is roughly the size of the European market, and could offer huge growth opportunity. In 2014, a strategic decision was made to establish a global presence by setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary company in North America, Burnside America Inc.
Burnside America Inc. is located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and has full manufacturing capability designed precisely the same as the Ireland facility. The Pennsylvania facility has two production lines running two shifts and provides customer service, and aftermarket support for the U.S. All design, engineering, and R&D functions come from the Ireland group.
Standing out from the competition
As part of its service portfolio, Burnside covers the entire lifecycle of any cylinder ordered, from design, research and development, and prototyping to lifecycle testing, “fit and function” analysis, and production manufacturing.
“This complete service is something which distinguishes us from many of our competitors, who do not have an end-to-end offering with all capabilities in house,” said Kelly. “The cylinders, which are customized for each application, are complex units of precision engineering. They provide the “muscles” to the machines onto which they are fitted.”
Burnside cylinders are used as actuators and lifting devices on a variety of machinery, such as Ariel Work Platforms, Construction and Earthmoving Equipment, Warehouse Equipment and Recycling Vehicles to name but a few. Many machines utilizing Burnside cylinders can be seen working on roads and building sites as well as warehouses and docks all over the world.
“The dynamics of a family owned and operated company are different from those of other businesses, there is a passion for the business which translates into a unique type of service for customers,” said Kelly. “The commitment to the business is long-term, and the objective is always to find ways to grow the business while keeping its entrepreneurial spirit and ethos at the forefront.”
Kelly added that with a family business, the major stakeholders are heavily invested, meaning that a great deal of effort is put into ensuring that customers are delighted by their service and thus retained into the future.
“We are very mindful of our humble beginnings, and of the duty which we owe to our employees, our shareholders and our family to make it the best it can be,” said Kelly. “Our objective is to hand it off successfully to the future generations in the best shape possible.”
Establishing a U.S. presence
Burnside’s opportunity to enter the U.S. market came about as a result of years of forging good working relationships with European clients, who often have U.S. parent companies or affiliates. The company’s reputation was solid, and the product offering was deemed to be of high quality. Burnside has the capabilities to supply the total package to the customer—from design concept to R&D capability, right through to engineering know-how and experience and strong logistics support.
“Irish companies love to do business in the U.S. as we have much shared history and links, but also because we speak a common language and share a “can do” ethos in our approach to business,” said Kelly. “This gave us a good natural start to developing our business stateside, and cultural adaptation was less of an obstacle for us than it might be for some of our competitors.”
After some time, it became apparent that to demonstrate their long-term commitment to U.S. relationships; Burnside would need to do more and ultimately establish a physical presence in the U.S.
“We identified a suitable location that put us in good proximity to our potential and existing clients, and began by establishing a warehousing and aftermarket service support to “make things easier” for our customers,” added Kelly.
Upon completion of that objective, and with positive feedback from the market, Burnside began working toward their next goal of establishing a full production facility emulating all the systems and processes already tried and tested in their Irish facilities. This was a strong statement of commitment and was well received by customers.
With the support of Enterprise Ireland, Burnside exhibited at the Conexpo Show in Las Vegas in 2017, a leading trade show for suppliers to the mobile OEM sector. Thus, Burnside America Inc. was officially opened for business in the U.S.
“We believe that our efforts and strategic placement of our production and services on two continents have made a significant difference to our customers’ supply chain robustness,” said Kelly. “We are the number-one performing cylinder producer to one of our biggest U.S. OEMs, and our unique way of doing business with our clients has influenced their understanding of what a good supply partner can contribute to their end success.”
Being a successful Irish manufacturing company inevitably means that the export market has to be an essential focus of the business plan, given the finite size of the domestic market. At an early stage, one has to challenge the business to think in original ways to overcome the hurdle of being the outsider in each target export market. This mindset becomes a unique feature of the company and ultimately can give you the edge in doing business against your competition.
“Irish companies are internationally perceived as dynamic, committed, successful and driven,” said Kelly. “Our responsiveness to the market as well as our low level of bureaucracy makes us agile and able to adapt readily to change. In these ever-changing global markets, these attributes are a pre-requisite for survival and success.”