The ICBE Conference took place on Thursday May 10th 2018 in the Killashee Hotel Kildare.   This year’s theme of “Knowledge Driven Excellence” witnessed an expert panel present on the key pillars of People, Productivity and Technology.  Each pillar featured an expert speaker on the topic followed by an industry led case study.  Building on last year’s innovative group discussions, each section was also followed by  ‘Many to Many’ group discussion on key challenges raised by the speakers.

You can download the eBook report on the tab below or view the conference live blogging proceedings on the Knowledge Map conference website.  Browse the photos from the day or hear Matt Cooper’s views on the day and other video interviews.


Conference Resources

Click below for this year’s conference presentations, eBook report, video and photography.

Speaker Insights

In order to ‘whet your appetite’ in the run up to the conference on May 10th our speakers have shared some insights and thoughts on industry issues.

Listen to our special preconference interview with this year’s keynote speaker Dr. Niamh Shaw in conjunction with Inc60.

Ray O’Cinneide | Tyndall

What aspect of innovation/developing new products do you enjoy most and why?

Working in a close team to develop something which will improve the world in a small way gives an immense sense of satisfaction.

Which part is the most challenging?

It’s important to know what the market will want from technology, but the market really has no idea.

So even with thorough market research and potential customer interactions, there is still a high probability that a project may not end up in a major product. It’s tough when all the hard work goes nowhere.

What is the most inspiring product you have developed/work on?

Throughout the years I’ve worked on the development of around 15 ‘computer chips’ for various applications, but the most inspiring is the current smart glove project which may really help people in numerous application areas. 

What advice would you give a manager in a manufacturing site to improve innovation/new product development?

Get everyone to feel like they are an owner of their role.

Give them the authority to think and question, and a mechanism to implement improvement so product quality is kept consistently high.

What was the single best piece of advice you received in your career?

Focus on doing what you are naturally good at. A hard worker may become good at something s/he is not a natural at, but will never excel like the hard-working natural.

What one change would you like to see in the research/new product arena?

More international collaboration would improve everyone’s success. Lots of time is wasted by competing groups working on the same solution.

What was the most surprising discovery on the Haptic glove journey?

That there is so much opportunity for the development of new ideas.

Fiona Buckley

What was the most rewarding professional work you have undertaken?

Delivering and teaching on corporate training programmes where I know I have made a real difference to people.

What was the biggest catalyst for change in your career?

 When I took redundancy and set up my own business after 15 years of working

What is the best tip you ever received for managing employees?

Don’t expect everyone to like you!

Who do you look up in the industry?

Sheryl Sandberg.

Do you have any daily rituals that help you get things done?

Weekly goal setting on a Sunday evening/Monday morning is crucial for me. I then filter this down into daily goals and priorities. Without doing this I don’t think I would get half as much done. It keeps me focused.

If you had a magic wand that could solve all HR problems, what would you use it to do?

Create better people managers

What one change do you think managers should undertake?

Put yourself in the employee’s shoes regularly.


John Quirke | SA Partners

What is the most enjoyable part of your work?

After working with clients, we often carry out follow up assessments with companies when they have their own ‘wheels’ under them.  It is fantastic to listen to the teams explain what they have done and how they have improved things. It is a special place to be when operators and team leads are talking about and showing you the Improvements they have made by applying their ideas.

What parts of problem solving do people find the hardest?

Looking at the process and understanding it without the baggage of older thinking.  When solving a problem teams must investigate and understand what is really happening not what they think is happening.

Where do they fall down?

Ignoring facts or maybe not setting up experiments to test the ‘facts’ they have.  It’s like the old story of the guy looking for his keys in the dark. He only searches where the street lamp is shining!

What is the biggest challenge you face when you work with an organisation?

Fear. This can be fear of change or real tangible fear resulting from years of poor behaviours and disrespect.  If this is present in an organization it must be addressed before any CI progamme is initiated. If it is not it creates a hollow, tick the box effort that only perpetuates an already in unhealthy environment.

What advice would you give to senior managers in the manufacturing sector?

Get your ‘cunning plan’ or ‘Skunk’ strategy together for your site.  I don’t care if the site is part of a global corporation. The senior team need a strategy for their site.  To address questions such as: How do we remain relevant to the organization? What technologies and skills will we need in the future? How do we influence key stakeholders? Who do we really need to be competing against? How will we add value in five years time?

How advanced are Irish companies in implementing lean and critical thinking methodologies?

Getting better.  But there can still be an over focus on tools without sufficient thinking on ideal culture and  behaviours.  For example, if I’m an operator working on a medical device manufacturing line,  is it acceptable that I don’t really have an understanding of how the process works.  I will know I have to put this bit here and that bit there and press this button and I’ll know a good sample and a bad sample.  But really that’s not enough? If that is the extent to which I engage operators in the process then I am limiting the ability of the organization to tap into the ‘minds of gold’ of the people closest to the work.  So we need to look at the behaviours that encourage learning, inquisitiveness, improvement, along with adherence to well defined standards that I as an operator have been really involved in their development. We need behaviours of respect and humility to ensure the suggestions and concerns of operators are listened to and respected.  We need more of this.

What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?

It’s only work! Work is not life!

Sure it’s important but if we are not balanced in ourselves it is hard.  In my job this is a particular challenge and one I need to constantly check in on!

Kevin Eyres

What role do managers struggle with?

Managers struggle to coach (although they often mentor) and they struggle also to provide effective correction preferring to avoid tricky situations.

What makes a really good manager?

Sometime who listens and observes well in order to understand what might be going on.

What do you enjoy about the consultancy/work with managers?

Seeing people get better at their craft

How well do Irish managers compare with other countries?

Favourably; there is a depth of ‘social capital’

If you had a magic wand what aspect of managing would you change?

Eliminate easy prescriptions of what it means to be good.

What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?

Do what you love doing.


Gerry Cahill | Roche Ireland

What was the best productivity improvement measure you have ever witnessed or initiated?

Time saved was the best measure implemented – everyone can relate to having more or less time and through LEAN programs making more time available, people can see a real tangible benefit. 

What were the key drivers of productivity?

Having an improvement mindset, knowing what to focus on and being relentless in achieving improvements

How important is the technology component?

Very important as are the people managing the technology. Key is to have an aligned technology strategy that supports the manufacturing processes. 

What advice would you give a senior manager in dealing with a change journey?

Be very clear on what you want to achieve i.e. define what a successful outcome is before you start any change journey. 

What was the most difficult part of closing a facility?

Not knowing how people would react to the news of the closure

How optimistic are you about Ireland retaining its manufacturing base?

I am optimistic once we don’t get complacent where we must maintain a high level of competitiveness by being the best at manufacturing coupled with having a highly skilled and a flexible workforce. 

If you had a magic wand what aspect of manufacturing in Ireland would you change?

Inform key decision makers around the world about the manufacturing capabilities within Ireland – I keep meeting people who do not know what capabilities are available and what has been achieved 

What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?

Hire the best people 



Siobhan Geary | Boston Scientific Clonmel

What is the most satisfying aspect of training a diverse workforce?

Seeing people who work hard grow and develop both professionally and academically.  Seeing their confidence and skill set develop and that person flourishing and achieving more then they originally thought themselves capable of.  Having diversity from both a geographic and background perspective brings new ideas and approaches to every day challenges.  

How different is multigenerational training – do you take a different approach to millennials etc?

Our training approach continues to develop based on the business needs. We don’t specifically take a different approach based on generational differences as we feel equality and standardisation of the training and messaging is important.  However, training approaches evolves with technology and we are now developing more Computer Based Training (CBT’s) and app’s.  A recent app TAP, Talent Assignments & Project allows Boston Scientific employee to have visibility to projects across the network.  If there is a topic of interest or if you have a skillset that would allow you to assist, you can TAP and engage in the project.

What is the biggest impact that training delivers?

From a Business perspective standardization of a common language and consistence of purpose in a regulated environment.  From an Employee perspective, information and guidance and a how too guide for a new job initially.   Defining a pathway to future development.

What advice would you give to a manager dealing with training?

Customise for your audience. Understand the “What’s In It for Me” (WIIFE). Change the medium every 15 minutes to keep your audience engaged.  Finally, you can never go wrong with Chocolate!

If you had a magic wand what aspect of the training world would you change?

What is the key message you want to audience to walk away with.  A lot of training gets lost in the detail and the audience do not walk away with a very clear simple message.

What is the best piece of business/work advice you ever received?

Don’t rule yourself out of opportunities  – say yes – you will gain value knowledge from the experience and you might even surprise yourself

Cormac Ó’Conaire | Design Partners

What was the most satisfying product you ever worked on?

Logitech G’s flagship gaming product, the G900. There are many ways designing a product can be satisfying: working with great teams, having a eureka moment, winning design awards or getting positive customer reviews. For the G900 it achieved all the above. There is extreme pressure on any design team when replacing a ‘hero’ product but our previous collaboration with Logitech resulted in the world’s bestselling gaming mouse, so we had earned great trust with the client.

How important is trust in the design process?

Trust is very important when it comes to our line of work. It gives our design and engineering team autonomy to work at their best as well as the incentive to create incredible work for our clients. The G900 was a huge commercial success, professional gamers used it to win major gaming competitions and PCGamer said they couldn’t find a single flaw with it. I’m very proud of the team that was involved in its success.

How much of the success of a new product is gut feel versus structured assessment/research?

There is an expensive and inefficient trend in our industry to over-prescribe research. Clearly, saying, “it feels right” is not a justifiable argument to a client’s brief, so many design agencies end up trying to validate every decision with some additional research. When research is used to define every single aspect of a product experience what’s left is a perfectly usable product that nobody wants to use; one that lacks any meaningful innovation or emotional connection. When we, as consumers, make any purchasing decision, regardless of how rational we think we are being, our brains use a combination of logic and emotion. A great design process mirrors this approach with a careful balance of focused research and design intuition.

The more experience you have the more instinctive your ideas become. You build an innate sense of what is right and wrong for each project. Our gut feel comes from a ‘second brain’ in our bodies called the enteric nervous system, made up of various neurons lining our stomachs, and is informed by our collective subconscious and unconscious experiences. So, once our designers have a deep understanding of the end users (and the brands) they are designing for, we encourage them to trust their instincts to produce beautifully functional solutions. 

How advanced are Irish companies in developing new products?

Ireland is booming with great entrepreneurial talent, but we have a way to go before our nation becomes world renowned for developing new products. Design Partners is one of the best consultancies in the world at designing new products and experiences. We see is a clear difference between the approach of the larger brands we work with (e.g. Huawei, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, HP, Google…etc.) and many of our Irish clients, but their ambitions are the same.

What should change?

Firstly, we need to educate people on the design process. There is a naivety in the value that design can bring to the product development process. Many companies still consider design as an afterthought; something that can be applied at the end to make their offering look better. But design is a carefully considered process that can bring a differentiating competitive advantage, it can build brand equity, it can make sales’ job easier, it can create happier customers. The Design Management Index released figures showing a 150% greater return in profits for companies that had integrated design into their development process and Irish companies who embrace that approach will set themselves apart.

What advice would you give to managers who are trying to introduce innovation in their organisations?

Begin with a vision. A vision paints a positive picture of the future you want to create and helps get people behind you. Humans are storytellers and if you can find the right way to articulate your vision people will follow.




Rathasker Suite Reception.

Tea/Coffee available on arrival.  Network and meet our exhibitors.



Eamonn Murphy | ICBE

Eamonn Murphy


Welcome address

Eamonn Murphy, ICBE will outline the focus of ICBE and its view on the challenges and opportunities ahead.


Kick off

Matt Cooper | MC

Matt Cooper



Matt Cooper will outline the day’s proceedings, the focus of this year’s conference and set the scene for the group sessions.


Problem Solving.

John Quirke | SA Partners

John Quirke

SA Partners

Problem Solving

John Quirke, SA Partners will discuss how to get the maximum from the conference and bringing critical thinking and problem solving to the group discussions.  In this pragmatic session our expert speaker will give practical tips, structures and insights that will power the group discussions following each set of presentations.  John will also address problem solving as a core employee engagement tool for organisations.



Judith McMullan  | Abbott

Judith McMullan


Our Journey to Excellence

Judith currently manages the Shingo program across Abbott Nutrition Supply Chain (ANSC), where they have a number of sites challenging for the Shingo Prize over the next three years.  In October 2017, Abbott Nutrition, Sligo were the first site in the ANSC network to receive the prestigious Shingo prize.  Judith will share their journey to excellence and how they have aligned the ANSC Management Operating System (MOS), and their ANSC Pledge Behaviours with the Shingo Model to drive people engagement, productivity and drive a culture of accountability, continuous improvement and problem solving.


Productivity – Casestudy

Gerry Cahill | Roche Ireland

Gerry Cahill

MD Roche

Productivity in Crisis – Sustaining productivity in an era of change

Gerry will share his personal journey and how Roche reached new levels of productivity.   Gerry is currently closing Roche’s facility and is leading the divestment activities to ensure a safe and successful closure. With a significant interest in Leadership, Learning and Change Management he is leading the site on a LEAN journey to help prepare people for life after Roche whilst delivering better than target results for the business. This is to help people upskill themselves and be able to tell their stories about how they improved both themselves and the business by the applicationof LEAN principles and therefore make themselves more employable. This journey is basically one of leadership, people engagement and effective project execution to ensure a successful outcome.


Productivity Challenge

Matt Cooper


Group Challenge

Matt will explain the challenge for the group session.


Productivity – Group Session


Group Challenge

Think, Pair and Share session on a challenge raised by our speakers.  Work as pairs before sharing insights with the group



Coffee Break


Network and meet our exhibitors


People Expert

Kevin Eyre | Kevin Eyre

Kevin Eyre

Kevin Eyre

The Real Challenge for Managers

The demands on managers and leaders (from crises management to being an effective coach) are ever greater requiring them to play a multitude of roles. In this session Kevin will illustrate how a focus on the development of ‘skilful dialogue’, on the range and repertoire of talk-in social interaction, equips managers to better meet these ever increasing challenges.


People – Casestudy

Siobhan Geary  | Boston Scientific Clonmel

Siobhan Geary

Boston Scientific


Developing internal talent to meet the challenging needs of the business.

Siobhan will discuss how Boston Scientific assesses future skill needs for the business.  She will also share how the company invests in its people by developing programmes which meets the individual and business needs, drives engagement and delivers results.


People – Group Exercise

Group Discussion

Think, Pair and Share session on a challenge raised by our speakers.  Work as pairs before sharing insights with the group


People – Expert

Fiona Buckley

Fiona Buckley

Fiona Buckley

10 Ways to Retain Key Talent

In this practical session Fiona Buckley will focus on the top ten ways to retain key talent in your organisations in 2018. Challenges will be discussed alongside best practice on what other organisations are currently doing. This session will focus on some quick short term solutions you can put into practice right away with some longer term activities to consider.




Lunch, networking and meet our exhibitors.


Technology – Expert 

Cormac Ó’Conaire | Design Partners

Cormac Ó'Conaire

Design Partners

Designing Success

Cormac Ó’Conaire from Design Partners will map the process of creating, developing and bringing a new product to market.


Technology – Casestudy

Ray O’Cinneide | Tyndall

Ray O'Cinneide


Design Lessons for Industry

Ray O’Cinneide will discuss how design expertise turned research into something people actually want and bring us through the journey of the Smart Glove (Haptic Human Computer Interface System for VR/AR and robotics).


Technology – Expert

Barry Kennedy | IMR

Barry Kennedy


Technologies Driving Factory 4.0 in 2018

In a world of change, isolating the technologies that matter, identifying the ones that have reached maturity and knowing which ones to invest in and when is a difficult task.  Barry will share the insights from IMR, exciting projects they have worked on and trends to watch in 2018.


Technology – Group Exercise

Group Exercise

Group Exercise

Think, Pair and Share session on a challenge raised by our speakers.  Work as pairs before sharing insights with the group



Coffee Break


Network and meet our exhibitors


Key Note Speaker

Dr Niamh Shaw

Recently voted one of Ireland’s leading science communicators and STEAM specialists

Niamh Shaw

Engineer, scientist and performer

Keynote Address : Perceptions of Self and Success

In 2011, Niamh remembered that she wanted to be a space explorer and that moment changed the course of her life forever.  She is on that road now, but it took tenacity, honesty and having to re-define perceptions of myself, failure and the world itself.
Niamh’s talk explores innovative approaches to problem solving, collaboration and the personal steps she has learned that allowed her to dream big and fulfill life’s ambitions.
Niamh story will inspire us to embrace change and not to be afraid of looking for opportunities to achieve a full life.



Feedback from Group Exercises


Group Exercise

Views from the Tables

Matt Cooper will extract the best challenge reactions from the room and discuss the approaches, solutions and ideas from the floor.


Q&A and Wrap Up

David Dunne


Wrap Up

David Dunne, Kerry Foods & ICBE Chairman will formally wrap up the conference and announce details of next year’s conference.

To reserve your place/s, please contact Kate by email, phone 061-423622 or click the link below.  Places are limited.

Hear Gina London describe last year’s conference.


Niamh Shaw

Engineer, Scientist and Performer

Keynote Speaker.
Dr Niamh Shaw is an Irish engineer, scientist and performer. She is passionate about igniting peoples curiosity and particularly interested in doing this by combining creativity with science topics. She presents the human story of science, creating theatre shows, public events and contributions to media with this focus.

Barry Kennedy


Title: Next generation technology. Factory 4.0
Barry is currently CEO of Irish Manufacturing Research, Irelands leading edge industrially focused research centre for advanced manufacturing. Barry qualified with an MSc from University of Dublin, Trinity College Dublin in 1996.

John Quirke

SA Partners

Title: Problem Solving.
John joined S A Partners in December 2009 and became a Partner in 2013. Before joining S A Partners, John was Director of Operational Excellence at Cordis Johnson & Johnson, and prior to this john held the position of European Lean Six Sigma Lead at Millipore B.V. John’s initially industrial training was with Fujitsu Corporation in Japan where he worked as Chemical Process Engineer.

Fiona Buckley

Fiona Buckley

Title: Talent Retention
Fiona Buckley is an executive coach, corporate trainer, lecturer and keynote speaker in the area of organisational behaviour. Before setting up her own business, Fiona held a number of senior corporate roles spanning 15 years with her last role being VP of Professional Services. Fiona is a regular contributor in the media including a number of appearances on TV. Fiona is a trained story teller, professional Improviser and stage performer which brings a unique energy to all her events.

Kevin Eyres

Kevin Eyres

Title: People and Behaviours
Kevin’s professional career has been spent in organisational development.
Kevin has a particular interest in developing conscious and authentic dialogue between people at work.

Ray O'Cinneide


Ray has held various roles in the electronics industry in Ireland and USA since 1996. He is currently a program manager in the SFI CONNECT centre and is interested in ubiquitous IoT.

Cormac Ó'Conaire

Design Partners

Presentation: New Product Design.
Cormac Ó Conaire is Creative Director at Design Partners, a strategic product and interaction design consultancy.
For over a decade Cormac has been leading design initiatives and collaborating with global brands to create world best-selling and award-winning products and experiences, digital and physical.
Cormac’s experiences working with companies such as Panasonic, Google, Logitech, Huawei and Honeywell have enabled him to lead and inspire global teams in driving innovation and new product development. His approach is innately multi-disciplinary and has been recognised with international accolades in industrial, interaction, digital and strategic design. These awards include iF, RedDot, IDA Gold, IDSA, Good Design Chicago and CES Best of Innovations.

Gerry Cahill

Roche Ireland Ltd

Gerry is the Managing Director of Roche’s Pharmaceutical manufacturing facility located close to Ennis in County Clare. He has over 25 years experience in the Pharma industry having worked for Glaxosmithkline, Bristol Myers Squibb and Roche. Having qualified as an Industrial Chemist much of his early experience was in operational roles but with qualifications in Strategic Management, Training and Development and in Executive Coaching he has held various senior roles in Ireland, America and Switzerland over the past 10 years across a range of departments.

Judith McMullan


Presentation: Our Journey To Excellence.
Judith McMullan is Global OpEx Manager, Abbot.
Judith joined Abbott in 2011 and has held various roles within Operations, Quality and Strategic Sourcing across the Diagnostics, Vascular and Nutrition divisions. Judith is currently working in a global operational excellence role, supporting the Abbott Nutrition Supply Chain enterprise which includes 14 manufacturing sites in Europe, Asia and North America.

Siobhan Geary

Boston Scientific

Principle Engineer: Specialised in Lean and Operational Excellence. 20 years experience in the deployment of Lean Operational transformations within various industries from Aviation, Technology and Medical Devices. Holds two Masters, one in Lean Operations from the Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC) in Cardiff University and the second in Advanced Manufacturing Technology from the University of Limerick.
6 Sigma black belt accredited from the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME). 10 years experience within Boston Scientific evolving the Lean and Operational Excellence journey. Working initially with manufacturing and new product development in the deployment of lean principles, systems and tools. More recently working on Lean Business Processes outside of manufacturing focusing on business transformations and the training and developing of top talent across the organisation.

Group Discussion

Following a positive reaction to our group discussion at last years conference (see eBook), we have expanded and evolved the opportunity to embed learnings and network.

Each pillar (People, Productivity, Technology) will feature a speaker and case study.  The will also pose a challenge to the entire group to try solve.

The room will be divided into 10-20 tables of 10 people.  Each table will have a chairperson and a rapporteur.  The chairperson will guide the group, explain the challenge and the steps while the rapporteur will record the agreed input from the group.

Think | Pair | Share

Once the challenge is set each person will have a few moments to capture their thoughts before pairing with another attendee where they will discuss the challenge and input from the presentations.  This is an opportunity to share your own knowledge and also to share challenges you may also be facing.

After 10 minutes the chair will bring the pairs back into a group discussion by asking for the input from each of the pairs around the table.  The chair will guide this discussion before agreeing the inputs from the table which will be published onsite and in the eBook.


Tickets for members are €295 plus VAT and €395 plus VAT for non members.

This includes a full day of expert speakers, lunch, tea/coffee, exhibition area, post drinks reception and post event eBook.

Kate de Courcy

Kate de Courcy

To book a ticket please email or phone 061 423 622

Conference Presentations

Barry Kennedy | IMR | Technologies Driving Factory 4.0 in 2018

Barry Kennedy Game Changing Technologies pdf

Gerry Cahill | Roche | Productivity in Crisis

3 Gerry Cahill ICBE presentation_May 2018_final

Ray O’Cinneide | Tyndall | Design Lessons for Industry


Siobhan Geary  | Boston Scientific Clonmel | Developing Internal Talent to Meet the Challenging Needs of the Business.


John Quirke | SA Partners | Problem Solving

John Quirke Problem solving

Judith McMullan  | Abbott | Our Journey to Excellence


Kevin Eyre | Kevin Eyre | The Real Challenge for Managers

4 Kevin Eyres ICBE May 2018 pdf

Cormac Ó’Conaire | Design Partners | Designing Success

DesignPartners_ICBE_CormacOConaire 2

Conference Report

Conference Video

See more

Conference Photography


About the ICBE

The Irish Centre for Business Excellence (ICBE) is a not-for-profit organisation established by leading companies in Ireland with a deep commitment to continuous improvement.

Kilashee House.

Killashee Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare is located only 30kms from Dublin City and just 2kms outside of Naas town.

If staying over night please book a delegate priced room on +353 45 879277

GPS Coordinates 53.1913 -6.6748