Making it Work

Making It Work: Kilkenny Cooling Systems targets UK expansion with new sustainable equipment

The Kilkenny-based refrigeration technology company already has a number of high profile clients in Britain, including Manchester City FC

John Smee, director of refrigeration firm Kilkenny Cooling Systems. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Kilkenny Cooling Systems, a refrigeration technology company, is expanding its operations in Britain as it seeks to rol-out a new energy efficient cooling system. The firm’s clients already include Manchester City FC and it now plans to expand across other major sports and concert venue owners.

Kilkenny Cooling Systems was founded by Paddy and Brigid Smee in 1971 and, as the name suggests, is based in Kilkenny. The business has 25 staff and recently invested €25,000 in an R&D project to develop more sustainable, and energy efficient, cooling equipment.

If you’ve ever had a pint in a pub in Ireland, there’s a good chance the beer was cooled using one of Kilkenny Cooling’s products. The company manufactures equipment for cooling draught beer, walk-in cold rooms like a supermarket fridge and process cooling equipment for factories.

“My dad was a stainless steel welder. At the time, people were moving from using milk churns to bulk milk storage. He started to make bulk milk tanks, so that’s where the idea originated,” John Smee, director of Kilkenny Cooling, told the Business Post.

“Those tanks had to be refrigerated, which led us onto manufacturing cooling equipment. Essentially one thing led to another and then another over the years,” he added.

The business has invested heavily in research and development over recent years to develop more energy efficient and sustainable forms of cooling systems for its customers.

“When you get a pint in a pub, it’s probably coming out of one of our coolers. We’re the industry standard in Ireland. The original specifications would have been driven by breweries, mainly Diageo and Heineken, because they wanted quality consistency for their products,” Smee said.

“They did that well, prescribing high-end specs for the equipment. That had a secondary effect as it meant there was a one size fits all element to the equipment, which meant it was often over-specced,” he added.

Fact File

Founded: 1971, by Paddy and Brigid Smee

Staff: 25

Latest R&D investment: €25,000

These specifications were developed in an era where energy efficiency simply wasn’t as much in focus. But now, with energy prices higher and demands for reduced carbon output increasing, a new standard is needed.

“The new equipment can be tailored to each outlet, based on opening hours and serving profile. Diageo and Heineken have become very interested in this. We did a lot of trials with them over the last year and a half,” Smee said.

“The energy savings are phenomenal. We put one into a pub in Kilkenny and the power consumption dropped 80 per cent. That’s exceptional, but we are still targeting up to 70 per cent energy reduction compared to most existing equipment.”

The business has worked with Enterprise Ireland for several years and the agency helped the company research and develop its new product.

“We’ve a really good working relationship with them. This project was backed by an innovation voucher, which allowed us to tap into academic expertise. Because of the significant energy claims we are making, we wanted third party oversight to prove the savings are real,” Smee said.

The goal now is to roll out the new products across Ireland and grow in the British market.

“I’d love to see most pubs in Ireland have this equipment. I really believe in it. We started doing high-end venues in Britain in the last year and half. It’s not an easy market to crack. We supply coolers to the Etihad stadium for Man City now and we are working with other Premier League clubs,” Smee added.

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland