From anvils into the modern age – how a Louth sheet metal firm evolved

Clients of Eliteform Manufacturing include the Aviva Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and now the Castlebellingham company is looking to get into making brackets for solar panels

Sandra Byrne, managing director of Eliteform, Castlebellingham: ‘We came up with the Smart Fence which is very exportable’. Picture: Arthur Carron

Eliteform Manufacturing is a sheet metal fabrication business steeped in tradition that embraces new ideas to aid its growth. Now with 70 staff, the Castlebellingham, Co Louth business was started in 1974.

“We’ve come all the way from an anvil in a forge to the most modern technical machines that you can imagine which can cut any size or shape of steel or aluminium,” Sandra Byrne, managing director of Eliteform told the Business Post.

The company was started by Byrne’s parents and she joined the business in 1995. It has a diverse range of clients, including the Aviva Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. If you’ve ever seen the former, then you would recognise Eliteform’s work in the sheets that make up the exterior facade.

Around a quarter of the business involves work on farm buildings, with half of the business being with industrial or commercial buildings including the aforementioned stadiums and apartments. That leaves a quarter which is made up of an idea that came to Byrne and her team during the last recession – the Elite Fence and its sister product, the Smart Fence.

“We had a lot of staff who we didn’t want to let go, but nobody was building, so we needed to think of something. One of the staff mentioned that they found getting a fence for their house was a challenge as there were no DIY options,” Byrne said.

The Smart Fence is a ready-to-build fence kit available as a one size fits all model, while the Elite Fence is a customisable version where users can get bespoke kit to meet their needs.

“We recognised there was a market there and we’ve made the fence for ten years now. Then we came up with the Smart Fence which is very exportable and we’ve worked with Enterprise Ireland on that,” Byrne said. “Those fences last for 20 to 25 years and you never have to paint them. It’s the same material we use for building products. It’s essentially cladding.”

The business has been supported by Enterprise Ireland through a eurozone project that has helped EliteForm work on entering the French market. “They held our hand every step of the way, made connections, set up meetings, and provided financial support,” Byrne said.

The growth of the fence business has enabled EliteForm to expand its sales team and focus on the broader business organisation.

“We are exporting a lot through partners in Ireland. We’ve developed networks through exports of products for data centres and recycling facilities in Europe and Australia,” Byrne said.

The goal over the next year is to double the size of its current headquarters in Castlebellingham, consolidating its operation in one location as it is renting storage space off-site at present.

“We’re looking at getting into bracketing systems for solar panels. There’s huge potential there and we are aiming to get in at the start,” Byrne said. “That’s our new big goal and we hope to be growing substantially in that area this time next year.”

This Making It Work article was produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland