A third-generation family business headed by Helen Milligan, Gem Oils is looking to overseas markets to drive its future.
Operating in Cavan since 1962, Gem Oils has grown into an all-island business offering lubricants for various industries and sectors including automotive, agricultural, commercial and industrial.
The knowledge and experience of its regionally based sales team combined with it having its own transport fleet, the largest storage capacity for lubrication oil on the island as well as a commitment to quality as an ISO 9001 company, puts the company at the top of its game.
“We have developed two new products that we think could be export-ready”
But as managing director Helen Milligan knows, change is coming. With cars and other vehicles going electric this will present challenges to the traditional business model in the not-too-distant future.
To counter this, the company has developed new products for construction and metalworking that are ripe for export potential.
Wheels and gears
“Our discussions with Enterprise Ireland are very much pointed in the direction of the export market. Our approach is two-pronged: we want to strengthen the core of our existing business but also explore and interrogate other opportunities overseas.
“We have always been practical and pragmatic about Brexit. Our view is that it will work itself out and it is being worked out, and that is because business has to find a way”
“We have engaged with our Local Enterprise Office (LEO) quite a lot and we are engaging with Enterprise Ireland to point the company in the direction of becoming more export-oriented.
“We have developed two new products that we think could be export-ready.”
Having taken on the role of managing director five years ago, Milligan acknowledges that being the third generation to take the company forward comes with its own pressures. “To me it is not just about leading the business towards a new direction, it is about having a strong base from which to grow and to not get too carried away with the growth imperative.
“At the same time, the market has changed a lot in those five years alone and you have to be constantly on the ball just to stay alive. We have employees and customers and there’s an impetus there to keep the ball rolling. We know electric vehicles are coming and while we’re not hugely dependent on the automotive sector, we certainly are dependent on commercial trucks and agriculture. As the technology develops it is going to bring changes in the commercial truck and agricultural sector. So, if we’re planning for the next 10 to 20 years, developing non-commodity products is essential for us.”
Potential export markets worth exploring including the vast construction sector in the Middle East.
“It was a big milestone for us to become an Enterprise Ireland partner company and a significant part of our journey of moving forward. It’s an important first step for the company to realise the potential it has out there.”
As a 32-county enterprise, Milligan says Gem Oils has been ready for Brexit and has already cut its teeth in the UK marketplace.
“While it is early days for our exporting journey, we have existing business in the UK. Our view is that if you can make it there, then let’s bring it forward from there.”
Looking to the future beyond Brexit, Milligan believes the imperative for trade will override the politics.
“We have always been practical and pragmatic about Brexit. Our view is that it will work itself out and it is being worked out, and that is because business has to find a way. It’s just what we do. There are thousands of Irish businesses trading with the UK so it can be done.”
By John Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published: 12 May 2021