Buildings focus: Behind the scenes of a new machinery workshop and showroom

In this Buildings focus, we go a little left of field to bring you a new modern machinery workshop and adjoining showroom.

Located a short distance from the Rock of Cashel, Breen’s Farm Machinery’s newly-developed site makes for interesting viewing.

Before we take a look at the new build, Breen’s Farm Machinery – which is now ran by managing director Conor Breen – was established by Conor’s parents Philip and Teresa in 1977.

The family company started out by importing and exporting all types of used tractors and plant and machinery; however, a lot has happened since then.

After serving his time as an apprentice mechanic, Conor joined the company in 1994. Now, the company is home to the Claas and Takeuchi franchises, along with stocking a wide range of new and used machinery.

In 2013, with an eye on the future, the decision was made to rent a second site – located in Ennis, Co. Clare – to meet the needs of its growing customer base. In 2015, Breen’s Farm Machinery moved to a greenfield site in Ennis and a new depot was developed.

Speaking to AgriLand when we visited the Cashel site recently, Conor said: “When you have a green site, it’s a lot easier to design and build.

“You can build what you want and the way you want it. You can build with the future in mind, whereas at this site [Cashel], we were working on a building that was originally built in the 1970s. And, we had to work with planning as well.”

Before the building commenced, Conor and Aidan Kelly from ADPS explored many options. However, he was limited with his ideas due to planning permission.

He said: “Originally, we looked at completely knocking the existing building and constructing a square unit similar to what we have in Ennis.

“But, planning restrictions wouldn’t allow that; so we had to work with the template that we had and that’s where Aidan’s expertise came into play.

“Where the new stores are now was the original workshop and where the showroom is now was an extended workshop that was put on in the early 1980s; everything had to enter and exit from the front,” he added.

The design

The new six-bay unit stands at 18m in length and 23m in width and is joined to the existing building. The workshop and new store occupy this space. A new canteen was also built for the staff.

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This new design allows tractors and machines to enter the workshop via the rear of the building and the showroom can be accessed through the front roller door.

When parts and accessories are delivered they are accepted through the rear of the building directly into the new store room. This, Conor says, has helped with efficiency.

“The scale of parts that we have to carry now compared to what had to carry in the past is massive. 40 years ago you would fit all the parts in one store; now we have a 100ft by 40ft store, so we have the parts there for people when they need them at critical times.”

The workshop

Continuing, Conor said: “The main reason we developed this site was because when you think of the size of tractor in the 1970s – perhaps a Massey Ferguson 135 which were very popular in the 1970s – you could fit 15-20 of those into our old workshop.

“But today, one tractor is nearly 2.5-3 times as big. So, we had to update the scale. It was also to do with modernisation.”

Conor decided to install insulated sheeting and insulated roller doors and he is the delighted with this decision.

“With the warm summer it was absolutely brilliant; it was nice and cool. And today [December 19, 2018] it’s 6º and it’s not cold in the workshop. That has proved to be a great investment and I’m happy that I decided to go for it.”

One thing that is very evident when you walk into the workshop is the amount of natural light. This is provided via two skylights per bay. The sheets and walls are also white to boost the brightness; artificial lights are also dotted throughout the structure.

In addition, timber perlons – that were located in the old workshop – were replaced with galvenised perlons to provide a more professional finish.

Commenting on the old situation, he said: “Although the old workshop was small, it was kind of like Ryanair with the luggage, we learned how to pack it. You could fit about 10 tractors in it comfortably, but the problem was that it was too narrow.

“We only had one narrow door, so if we had one tractor at the back, we had to move the one at the front to get it out. Whereas – with the new workshop – we have a middle lane and it’s marked so nobody parks in the way.

“In the workshops, two swinging-jib cranes (pillar-jib cranes) will be located throughout the unit with 30ft arms – that have a 2t lift capacity – for putting on loaders or for putting on hitches of diggers,” he added.

Health and safety is taken very seriously and everything has its own place in the workshop with designated work benches and all the waste oil is pumped from special trays so that there is no oil on the ground.

Facilities and the future

Between the Cashel site and the operation in Ennis over 30 people are employed. These positions range from mechanics to sale personnel to truck drivers.

As already mentioned, a new canteen was built for the staff. In addition, new wash facilities were also installed at multiple locations.

“It’s to give the lads in the workshop the comfort of a nice working environment and that is one of the key factors why we made the developments.

“There were a lot of changes that we put in with an eye on the future. We put in a computer room; all our tractors have telematics, so we can monitor the tractors remotely.

“All the mechanics have their own laptops and tools; it’s a big difference from where we were 10 years ago when we had one laptop between 11 lads in the workshop.

“I firmly believe that if you don’t try to keep modernising, you’re going backwards.

“We have put a lot of money into the plumbing for the oils, lubricants and air; each bay is accessible which makes it easier and more comfortable for the staff. It also speeds up the process.”

While the new showroom was not part of the initial plan, Conor is happy with what this adds to the business. In addition, to the right of the building, planning permission has just been awarded for a new yard to display tractors.

“I hope to get that done as soon as the weather dries up in the new year and that will open up the whole complex,” he concluded.