Making it work: Pothole machinery firm looks to fill gap in European markets

Archway Products’ main export market is Britain, so it is preparing for Brexit by looking to expand into other EU countries

18th December, 2020
Making it work: Pothole machinery firm looks to fill gap in European markets
Donal McNamee, managing director of Archway Products, at their Jamestown, Co Leitrim workshop. Picture: Brian Farrell

Liam McNamee grew up on a farm and worked for the Department of Agriculture before turning a lifelong interest in making and modifying farm machinery into a successful business.

When he launched Archway Products in 1990, the poor state of Ireland’s roads was a common source of complaint, particularly in rural areas where potholes and rough road surfaces caused a good deal of damage to cars.

In response, McNamee invented a new machine called the Roadmaster, which would make the process of repairing potholes faster and more cost-effective for local authorities.

Thirty years on, the Co Leitrim company is run by Liam’s son, Donal McNamee, who employs 37 people at Archway’s headquarters in Jamestown, Carrick-on-Shannon, and a further 16 at a sister company in Britain.

“My father is still involved in the business. He’s still in and out every day,” Donal McNamee said.

“He really made a success of the company. He spotted an opportunity in that potholes were really the bane of rural life in Ireland when he developed the Roadmaster. You couldn’t expect him to step away completely.”

Archway’s Roadmaster machines come in three sizes, priced from €220,000 and €250,000, and are used by local authorities in both Ireland and Britain.

“Our machines are used by 20 of the 31 county and city councils in the Republic of Ireland and we have relationships with about 60 local authorities in Britain,” McNamee said.

“The way potholes used to be repaired was with three council guys shovelling asphalt manually into the pothole and then tapping it with a shovel.

“Our machines can do in one day what it would have taken these guys four or five days to do, using a high-velocity application process called spray injection patching.”

In the 30 years since its launch, Archway has been entirely self-funded. The company entered the British market in 2009 with support from Enterprise Ireland.

Now, with the onset of Brexit, McNamee is taking part in the Enter the Eurozone programme run by the state agency ahead of plans to expand into new markets in mainland Europe, including France and Germany.

“Like many Irish companies, our principle export market to date has been Britain, but we have to look further afield now,” McNamee said.

“The day the Brexit vote was announced, we started to prepare for it. Our export plans have been disrupted this year by Covid-19, but within the next 12 months, we’d ideally like to have a foothold in the German market with at least two of our machines repairing roads over there.

“We’re also actively looking at the electrification of road repair. It’s our goal to be the first company in the world to launch an all-electric road repair machine for major urban centres.”

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