Belfast Telegraph

Co Tyrone firm selling equipment worldwide

By Lisa Smyth

People are at the heart of the success of CDE Global. The company, based in Cookstown, designs, manufactures and sells sand and aggregate cleaning equipment to a range of industries, from construction to wine bottle manufacturers. It was founded in 1992 by Tony Convery. Fast forward 23 years and the firm now employs more than 250 people globally, as it continues its efforts to become the number one materials washing company in every country in the world.

Exporting to about 80 countries already, CDE Global is already on target to achieve its ambitious vision. In fact, one of its biggest and most impressive achievements to date has been a contract to deliver the largest sand washing plant, in Qatar in the Middle East.

But they have not allowed ambition to become stagnant as a result of the success to date, and are constantly working hard to expand and acquire additional business.

Finance director Colin Trainor (38) said: “Within our industry, most people use a distributor network, but we decided it doesn’t really fit our model, so we pretty much sell directly.

“It’s all about people, people, people — we’re all about good people. We would like it known that we are always in the market, on the lookout for good talent. We continue to increase our headcount by about 50 people every year.”

But Colin warned that anyone hoping to go into business must be prepared to work hard.

“Be ready for a hard slog,” he said. “It comes back to people again, especially in our business.

“There are great opportunities, but you have to be prepared to work, nothing is handed to you.

“I remember telling people a couple of years ago that our credit card bill is our third largest supplier, but that is because half the company is in hotels around the world, simply because of the nature of the business. Everyone needs to be very mobile, they certainly need a passport and will travel.”

While CDE Global has its headquarters in Cookstown, it also has offices in India, Brazil and the US.

Of course, exporting to so many countries brings its own unique challenges.

“You may be operating in a different climate, such as in Qatar, where it was 45 degree heat, or the infrastructure may not be in place in certain countries,” said Colin.

“Each project has its own unique set of challenges, particularly as you go further afield from western Europe, and we just have to work to overcome those.”

It means that CDE Global not only employs people from Northern Ireland, but they also ensure they make use of local talent.

“If you are in the likes of America, then it doesn’t hurt if someone from here comes along, same as in Australia, but when you’re in South America or Africa, it helps if you have someone who knows the language and how business works out there,” said Colin.

The idea for CDE Global came when the founder, Tony Convery, was working in the industry and spotted a gap in the market for silt sand.

He already had an in-depth knowledge of the industry — he is a fellow in the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and is well renowned for his innovative engineering designs.

In fact, his design of a concrete reclamation unit was featured on the now-defunct Tomorrow’s World and continues to be a commercial success today.

He used his experience and knowledge and surrounded himself with a skilled management team who share his passion and drive to develop the company.

Indeed, one of the main strategies has been to adapt and diversify, so that business is not damaged by developments such as the downturn in the construction industry.

Over the years, CDE Global has expanded and designed equipment used in mining and water treatment plants, as well as for the recycling of sewer grit and road sweepings and for specialist industrial sands used in the likes of golf courses and glass manufacturing.

Looking to the future, the firm is in the middle of developing its business plan up to 2020.

To do this it has, once again, drawn on the experience and knowledge of employees.

Colin, a chartered accountant who qualified with Ernst and Young in Belfast in 2002, added: “We had a workshop where we gave every employee in the company an opportunity to give their opinion.

“It would be remiss of us not to engage with them.

“What would be the point in us developing a strategy and then finding out from the people on the ground and who will deliver the strategy that the aims cannot be achieved?

“The initial workshop was a few months ago and the plan is under way, although I can say that we are looking at expanding more into the north American market.

“There are growth opportunities in most parts of the world.

“Our accounts published last year showed that in 2014 we had a turnover in excess of £30m.

“With the strategy we are currently developing, we want to make sure that we do it right. It deserves to be a lengthy process.

“With regards to future turnover, I would be surprised it if goes backwards.”

CDE Global was named overall winner in the Ulster Bank Business Achievers 2012

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