On the cusp of entering its fifth decade in the machinery manufacturing business, Rossmore Engineering has become synonymous with front-end loaders. To find out more, we caught up Willie Joe Carroll, who set up the business, and his son and current MD Jerry Carroll.
Based in Clonoulty, 10 miles outside Cashel, Co Tipperary, Rossmore Engineering was established in 1981. The engineering business was set up to run alongside a sister farm machinery retail business that had been running for seven years.
Willie Joe said he first started off manufacturing propeller-type agitators and carrying out other general engineering work for farmers. In the years that followed, the company began getting more and more requests from local farmers to convert trip loaders to power loaders.
Rossmore Engineering has been the only Irish manufacturer of front-end loaders for close to two decades. Today, the front-end loader and corresponding attachments continue to be the bread and butter offering for the Tipperary firm. It accounts for 70% of its manufacturing. Jerry said: “Our sales of front-end loaders tend to be proportional with sales of new tractors. We tend to build an average of 450-500 front-end loaders each year. In the boom years, this was over 800 loaders per year when tractor sales were very high. Of all the loaders we build, we tend to collect, plumb and fit at least 70% of them to tractors here at our premises. The loaders start off at around €6,500 and range up to €11,000 including VAT.”
The remaining 30% of engineering is broken up between several products including slurry tankers, fertiliser hoists and conditioners. “Slurry tankers are now built to order, there are no two tankers built the same anymore. There are so many variations nowadays. We galvanise all our tankers and fit a large rear door for easier and safer access. The grant has meant the tanker side of things has been busy over the past few years,” said Jerry.
“Close to 90% of what we manufacture is for the Irish market, with the remaining 10% destined for the UK. Our business in the UK is largely front-end loaders and attachments. We regularly work with approximately 60 dealers in Ireland, but probably have dealt with the majority of tractor dealers in Ireland at some stage down through the years. We tend to work off a normal lead time of two weeks, which suits dealers,” said Jerry.
“Brexit is the biggest threat to our business. And the biggest thing is that we don’t even know how it’s going to play out yet. A lot of our steel comes from the UK.
“Depending how it plays out, we might have to look at importing components from other countries and exporting to new markets. With the help of technology and the internet, the world has become a much smaller place.
“On the implements side, more and more attachments are being imported from countries like Poland and China. Some of this is made using lower-quality steel, meaning it can be sold much cheaper. The biggest challenge on the loader side of things is keeping up with the tractor manufacturer’s latest models. One time, tractor makers used the same chassis and design for years. Nowadays, the ever-changing emissions regulations mean they are constantly changing every few years. It might just be a case of them relocating an AdBlue tank, but it requires new drawings on our side for the brackets to match. On the flip side, our competitive advantage is that we will fabricate loader brackets to suit any tractor in a short period of time.
“For the coming years we’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing, while making our business and products as efficient as possible. Things are very busy right now, which is good. We regularly tweak and update our existing products and will continue to do so. Nowadays, younger farmers want more and more spec so that keeps us on our toes. Cable control loaders are still the best seller numbers wise, but more and more are going towards electric joystick control. The difference in cost can be €1,500 to €2,000.
“The latest development to our loaders was recently fitting eight weighing systems for the OPW. By tapping into the main valve block, the oil pressure can be measured, giving a pretty accurate weight, probably within 4-5% accuracy. The weight is then displayed on a cab in the screen. This is probably the future of front-end loaders for certain applications,” concluded Jerry.