E + I Engineering Group builds electrical switchgear and distribution products primarily for the industrial, commercial and data center markets and provides a complete Medium Voltage & Low Voltage solution to include Energy Management systems that can be customized to its client’s needs. Energy management systems lead to enhanced productivity and energy conservation.
E + I Engineering manufactures a variety of products that are classified into two broad groups: switchgear and busway products. Switchgear consists of steel enclosures with electrical circuit breakers and switches that are used to control and protect electrical systems in a building. The busway products are a form of electrical distribution that replaces conventional wiring methods for high power applications. There is a natural connection between the two products as many switchgear installations utilize the busway product as a means of interconnection or high power distribution.
“If you have switchgear in the basement of a building, for example, the busway product distributes the power from the basement all the way up the elevator shaft or up the multi-story elements of the building, allowing power to be tapped off at each floor,” says Paul Connolly, the engineering and operations director at E + I Engineering.
On the switchgear side, the company has subgroups of products that are used in electrical power systems they are suited to different standards in the industry, and E + I has a range of busway products that are used to complement its switchgear.
One of these is the Intelligent Medium Powerbar (iMPB), an open channel busway system used frequently in data center projects. The intelligent aspect of the iMPB best describes its metering capabilities that were designed to serve critical power operations such as data centers. When data centers lose power, they lose important data with it. The iMPB gathers information about the electrical load of different circuits that can be used for energy conservation or trending and also indicate where potential problems may lie within the data center.
“The intelligence of this product allows those kinds of early warning systems to alert operational staff that there may be a problem that they can go and investigate before it becomes a real problem,” says Paul.
Another busway product is the Cast Resin Powerbar (CRPB). This resin-filled product has outdoor applications due to being waterproof, and its fire-resistance rating makes it very useful for powering life safety equipment such as elevators and sprinkler systems. For example, in an elevator shaft, where a fire-resistance-rated electrical system is required, the CRPB product will stay live in a fire situation for up to four hours.
E + I is a privately-owned company that was formed in 1986 in the city of Derry, Ireland by Philip O’Doherty, who is still the managing director of the company today. Since that time, two other shareholders, Damian McCauley and Cathal McLaughlin, joined the team. Philip manages the global sales team, whereas Damian’s focus is on production and Cathal’s on engineering.
The early days of the company were concentrated mainly on motor control center (MCC) panels, but by the mid-1990s, E + I got involved in large construction projects in the London area with many high rise buildings. E + I had established itself as the largest switchgear builder in the UK by the year 2000.
In 2004, it launched the busway component of the business. E + I identified this growth opportunity while working with other manufacturers and knew that the transition would be cost effective and would serve its customers better. The company’s busway product was branded under the name Powerbar in 2004 and has been a massive success.
All of this development was taking place from the company headquarters in Ireland, and in 2009, it set out for its first international opportunity. E + I Engineering built a busway factory in Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), approximately an hour away from Dubai. In 2014, it built a switchgear and busway factory in Anderson, South Carolina in the United States.
The company offers a compensation package that is typically higher than the local average, and it has an attractive benefits package for its employees. It has high retention rates as employees enjoy working at E + I and are satisfied with their career potential. “Without our employees, we couldn’t have grown at the rate we’re growing,” says Paul. “The efforts and dedication of staff here has certainly made all of this possible.”
Globally, E + I employs approximately 1,500 people, 800 of whom are based in Ireland, 250 in the UAE and 425 in the United States. All branches of the company are growing, yet the facility in South Carolina is experiencing the most substantial growth of the three. It has expanded from fifty employees in 2016 to the 425 it has today in a little over two years.
The customers of E + I Engineering have made it clear to the company that the reasons they keep coming back are its product quality and approach to customer service. “We have a very flat management structure, which means that people are accessible at all levels of the organization. Customers who have an issue tend to have full accessibility to middle and senior management to help resolve issues in the field,” says Paul. The company’s responsiveness when issues arise is exceptional and is a big part of why customers feel comfortable working with E + I Engineering.
“We were working for several large American companies who were expanding their infrastructure in Europe and also in the Middle East, and it was actually those customers who encouraged us as a company to think about coming and offering our product quality and customer service levels here in the U.S.,” says Paul. Not only did its customers motivate E + I to expand, but they also strongly supported its growth once it was established and began using its products as soon as they were available and certified to UL standards.
E + I is extremely grateful to the people and organizations that assisted with its integration into the United States. “We had good support from Ireland-based government agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, and we had good support from Anderson County here in South Carolina in terms of securing location and the incentives and support that they offered in getting the company established here,” says Paul. The company looks forward to continued partnership in the region as it grows.
The price of raw material has been a new challenge for the company due to some of the tariffs that have recently been introduced in the United States. “We are a large consumer of aluminum, and any fluctuation in what used to be a stable aluminum market can dramatically impact the company’s competitiveness in terms of our finished product,” says Paul.
E + I Engineering Group has an aggressive business plan for growth in all three regions. In the United States, its short-term goal is to establish a significant presence in the industry despite only having entered the market three years ago. Long-term goals are to continue the expansion of the business within all three regions, with most significant growth potential likely within the United States.
“We service an already wide customer base from coast to coast, and we certainly see an opportunity to open a second facility, perhaps in the Midwest or on the west coast, to service customers that have large facilities in that geographical region. We feel that we would be better placed to serve their needs by having local representation there,” says Paul.