The latest anniversary in our ongoing series marking HAI’s 80th birthday sees our attention directed towards Wavin. Pioneers in the truest sense, Wavin have become internationally synonymous with plastic piping, and proudly celebrate their diamond anniversary of 60 years of manufacturing in Ireland.
The beginning of Wavin
Wavin’s story begins in the 1950s in Zwolle, the Netherlands, where company founder Johan Keller was director of WMO – the local water utility. Supplying a largely rural district and a few urban centres, the company’s water supply reached its customers through a large network of mostly iron pipes. However, WMO found itself battling against serious pipe corrosion and a significant loss of water. Keller began looking into tailor-made plastic pipes for the supply of drinking water as a solution. He set up a small workshop in Zwolle and succeeded in developing and producing the first plastic pressure pipes for potable water. With growing interest both nationally and internationally WMO created an independent company to focus solely on pipe production. In August 1955, Wavin (a contraction of the words ‘Water’ and ‘Vinyl’) was founded.
Wavin have gone from a single office and 52 employees to today boasting a global presence in more than 25 countries, employing approximately 5,000 people. Beyond Europe, Wavin is a subsidiary of Mexichem, a global leader in plastic piping and one of the world’s largest chemical and petrochemical companies.
Wavin Ireland was one of the first subsidiaries outside of Holland and was founded by David McIlvenna and Tom McMahon in 1958. The two entrepreneurs had become aware of the production of PVC pipes and fittings by Wavin in the Netherlands. With the support of the Irish Government, they quickly established a manufacturing facility and Wavin Pipes was formed. The venture had a strong backing from the IDA and Sean Lemass – then Minister for Industry & Commerce.
The Early Years
Wavin Ireland began life in a small industrial unit in Cian Park, Drumcondra in 1958, employing just 20 people. In the mid-1950s, Armagh County Council became the first local authority anywhere on the island to use Wavin pipes and the business quickly expanded nationwide to Local Authorities, Group Water Schemes and National Utility Providers.
Wavin enjoyed prosperous growth and production, increasing from 240 tons in the first year of operations to over 10,000 tons by 1970. As Wavin grew, there was a need to move operations. In 1962, Wavin relocated to a new 26-acre purpose-built site in Balbriggan where they remain today. The official opening was performed by the then Taoiseach Sean Lemass, who later served as Wavin Ireland’s first Chairman.
A company of Innovation
Wavin have long been known for their innovative nature. In 1978, Wavin Ireland developed
and launched the market-leading AJ (access junction). It has been the number one selling WAJ on the Irish Market over the last 40 years and has been one of Wavin Ireland’s most successful export products – a position that is still maintained today.
Outside of their core market, Wavin develops the Wavin Hula Hoop and Wavin Hurley. The Wavin Hurley was predicted to be a huge success and was launched on the Late Late Show. The Hula Hoop was met with such popularity and demand that street traders traveled from Dublin and queued outside their Balbriggan facility to purchase the them.
Today, Wavin employs over 85 people across Manufacturing, Distribution, Sales & Marketing, Technical Support, Finance and Administration. Wavin Ireland aims to maintain its position as a leading manufacturer of building products. Their overall mission is to generate continuous value for their employees, customers, partners, and shareholders.
From modest beginnings, Wavin Ireland has grown to become the largest manufacturer and leading supplier of plastic pipe systems and solutions in Ireland.
In today’s mature market where Plastics are the dominant player, Wavin will continue to respond to the different challenges that both the economy and the market face. It is to be hoped that Wavin will celebrate another 60 years in business, and at this rate of success, it’s hard to see why not.
If you’re celebrating an anniversary this year, tell us about it by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org