by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Quad-X, is a Ballymena based manufacturer of machinery and accessories for the quad bike and agricultural market, owned and managed by Sean Blaney. From humble beginnings in 1993, the firm has since burst onto the manufacturing scene with their engineering innovations and unrivalled expertise in the design and development of agricultural machinery and all terrain vehicles.


“Quad-X is headquartered at our family farm in Ahoghill and was born 25 years ago from a love of off road motorbikes and ATVs. The first products in the Quad-X range were designed, developed and launched when I was a manufacturing student at the University of Ulster. Growing up on a farm helped instil in me an understanding and appreciation of the challenges, and at times dangers, presented by agricultural work. My aim was to make life easier for those working the land, so, with fresh eyes I looked at the machinery and equipment we had and how it could be adapted to better fulfil its purpose. What began with creating and adapting the mechanism of trailers and sprayers, expanded into a larger range of tractor machinery and ATV parts. 

When we first started repairing quad bikes, we were one of very few players in Northern Ireland, which made it difficult to source engine parts to carry out basic repairs. To overcome this, we began by sourcing second hand machines, eventually evolving from repairs to a quad dealership. It was then that we identified gaps in the market that other manufactures were not fulfilling and with our experience in servicing and selling quad bikes, we developed an engine and began designing and manufacturing our own BLANEY range of ATVs, kids quads and motocross bikes. When we developed our first quad bike we were reviewed by independent European bodies and awarded the title of best built kids’ quad, against the four leading Japanese companies. Through regular attendance at European trade shows, we developed a large dealer network not only in UK and Ireland, but also throughout Northern Europe. We continue to invest in R&D to meet growing demand from export markets and are proud to be the only manufacturer of Quads in Europe. 

Most manufacturers have evolved over decades whereas we were a new and relatively small player in a global market. We strategically selected markets where there is an extensive number of players, in terms of our agricultural products. That means we are not competing with other small businesses, but are going up against global multinational corporations, in a David and Goliath situation. But as the story goes, we are nimble and can move quickly to seize opportunities because we have the resources and expertise to make things happen. We do what the big players aren’t doing and in niche markets, that is our strength. 

Innovation is at the centre of everything we do at Quad-X, we are inventors at heart. Whilst many businesses are fighting to keep ahead of their competitors, we are able to explore completely new product lines and inventions. We are experiencing unprecedented demand for our products due to their unique design features and operating efficiencies for end users. Currently in our niche business we are the market leader so to maintain that foothold our R&D expenditure is high. As a business bursting with ideas and opportunities, we currently have more products developed than we can sell. Our biggest challenge is finding people with the right skills and mindset to help turn our ideas into marketable products to help us achieve our ambitious business goals. 

When working in a small tight knit team, everyone is enthusiastic and motivated but as the company grows, we have to work harder to maintain that high level of commitment and drive. We put the training and development of our staff as a key business objective, identifying the need for an educational programme as part of our strategic development. We introduced a specialist HR talent development office which has paid dividends. We take on work experience students, university placements and apprentice schemes to cultivate and identify skills in young people and grow our now 36 strong team. 

Along the way there have of course been bumps on the road. With the outbreak of foot and mouth for example, we were in the early stages of our business and everything was at a standstill, where we couldn’t deliver products to meet customer demand.  As a business we had to deal with the crisis and learned some important lessons. Our strategy ever since has always been one of caution and calculated risk assessment. 

This approach also applies to our view of Brexit, where we say, ‘Bring it on!’. Luckily for us we now have a wide range of products in a variety of sectors in a number of foreign markets. Overall, we maintain an optimistic outlook and will have the advantage of some foresight to strategically plan for what is to come from Brexit. It may be more difficult for us to export to Europe but conversely it will also be more difficult for Europe to import to the UK which means we will have more protection and opportunity in our home market. 

In life, our experience has shown that those who are apprehensive create opportunities for those brave enough to seize them. We are finding that people within our sector are holding back whilst we are confidently soldiering on. We will continue to take on projects that stretch our current capabilities and will strive to take quantum leaps in our technical development to make the impossible, possible.”


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