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C&F Group Officially Opens a New Facility in DongGuan

Fireworks and dragon dancers were at hand in the southern Chinese production hub of Dongguan yesterday, when Galway- based design and manufacturing company C&F opened a new production facility, to serve amajor global contract with IBM. According to C&F Group's managing director John Flaherty " the €7 million factory will build server racks for the Chinese market for IBM and was built in just seven months".

"In December last year we picked a greenfield site here and now it's ready to run," Mr. Flaherty said. "I came here five times in all. This was a building site three weeks ago. We're planning to make 500 to 600 server racks a week here. We have capacity for 900 and we're also going to offer the facility to our other customers."

The C&F Group already has manufacturing operations in Athenry, Co Galway; the UK, the Czech Republic and the Philippines and globally employs 1,000 people. Turnover in 2007 was €63 million and this year is forecast to rise to €77 million. It is predicted to hit €101 million next year once revenues from the China plant come into play.

Its customers include IBM, American Power Conversion, Ingersoll Rand, Linde Carrier, Toshiba, Hitachi and Glen Dimplex. C&F makes the same racks in Ireland and the Czech Republic, with the Irish operation supplying Dublin and the Czech plant supplying Hungary. Mr Flaherty said: "IBM asked us to come to China. We made a commitment in December last year to be ready in China - in fact we made a bet, IBM said they'd buy us a dinner if we managed to do it.

"Big companies want global solutions. We couldn't be a global supplier to IBM if we just had Galway. We wouldn't be doing any business." Vice-mayor of Qingxi Tang Quanhe and Irish ambassador Declan Kelleher officially cut the ribbon at the plant, alongside Cynthia Devine, procurement engineer and programme manager at IBM in Dublin.

The factory is in the town of Qingxi, which is part of the huge manufacturing city of Dongguan. Exports from Qingxi were worth €3.7 billion last year and the town is home to 800 companies. "We will be successful here like we are anywhere else - we bring the knowledge of the Irish manufacturing process to the world, and the efficiencies that we've built in over the years. Rising oil prices and shipping costs nmeant you needed to manufacture locally by region” said John.

"Plus there is the cost of inventory - no customer wants to pay for inventory. You have to manage your cost by region. Supporting your customer globally doesn't mean moving out of Europe. We're competitive within Ireland and within Europe. We do it well in that we've used transfer of technology, not jobs." © 2008 The Irish Times.