Feature: CDE continues washing plant growth trajectory

CDE celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. The eye-catching growth to date of what is now the world’s biggest materials washing equipment manufacturer has been fuelled by both the quality and reach of the company’s washing technologies. Exciting plans to expand the footprint and capabilities of CDE’s global HQ in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, have been revealed, with state-of-the-art product innovation and strong aftermarket focus set to remain at the forefront of the company’s customer offer. As founder and chairman of CDE, Tony Convery has played a key role in the business’s impressive rise. He talks to ABE editor Guy Woodford about CDE’s evolution and its passionate pursuit of further worldwide commercial success – in a report by our sister title Aggregates Business.

CDE is a company going places. In 2017, its 25th anniversary year, the ambitious global market materials washing equipment firm announced it was creating 110 new jobs over the next six years as part of a £6.8 million (€7.65mn) investment in the business. On top of that, production assembly space at the company’s Cookstown global HQ was increased by a third to allow for the production of 60 additional machines/year. Meanwhile, a new £10 million (€11.25mn) state-of-the-art office complex for housing up to 400 people at Cookstown is due for completion this summer.

Such facilities’ growth is well timed given that CDE’s confirmed revenues for 2017 are due to hit a record annual level in excess of £80 million (€90mn), thanks to booming exports. Rising overseas demand for the firm’s washing equipment coupled with the company’s major investment in production and staffing levels is also likely to lead to CDE doubling its turnover over the next three years.

Given the above, it is not surprising that CDE founder and chairman, Tony Convery, is in good spirits during a conversation with me at the company’s global HQ on a cold and wet January morning. He emphasises how CDE’s current heady trading position is a world away from the company’s formative years in the 1990s.

“My plan at the start was trying to feed what was a family of three kids and try and make things happen,” says Convery. “I worked for one other company and didn’t enjoy being an employee. I always wanted to work on my own.”

A chartered mechanical engineer and a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Convery has an impressive history in the materials processing business. His work has taken him across Europe and America where he worked on major sand and aggregates and water treatment projects.

Speaking about his early years in the materials processing sector, Convery says: “I started out doing projects in the water treatment industry, which ended up morphing into changing quite large sand and water filters, about the size of small football pitches. I did about 14 on one job and was then asked to put in a machine to reprocess the material, which happened to be a wash plant. I bought a wash plant and put it in. I then started doing other projects and kept my nose in the sand industry. Eventually I moved into the machinery side of things. A lot of the machinery I saw at the time wasn’t accurate enough for the water filtration industry. I scoured the world and started buying equipment from Spanish and American suppliers to get quality hydraulic separation using water. We then saw an opening in the sand and gravel market, trying to provide a more modern, efficient way of processing materials to get the maximum from them. Most quarries ran open lagoons which were dangerous, with kids flying into them on quads at the weekend. Heavy rains were also causing mudslides from lagoons to run into rivers and do all sorts of harm. This led to us introducing into Ireland one of the first water thickener tanks for materials processing, now known as our AquaCycle range.”

A CDE EvoWash installation at Multi Crete Bricks’ Analiza Quarry site in South Africa
Convery says that although there were some who initially thought water thickener tanks and accompanying filter presses were too expensive, and that it was easier to dig a pond for excess materials processing water, he knew that with the right marketing, quarry owners and operators would see it was the “right thing to do”. He adds: “ABS brakes were too expensive, but everyone has them these days. It is a bit like that with the thickener tanks and filter presses. We now make four or five AquaCycles a month.”

Back in the present day and CDE’s Cookstown HQ is now the world’s largest site dedicated to the wet processing of materials in the sand and aggregates, mining, construction and demolition waste recycling, industrial sands and environmental sectors. The company operates across eight specific global regions – Ireland & UK; Europe & Russia; North America; Latin America; Middle East & North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Australasia; and CDE Asia – selling its washing plant range in more than 90 countries. CDE’s long-term vision is to be the biggest-selling wet processing equipment company in every country in the world.

As Convery and Brendan McGurgan, CDE’s managing director, who joined my conversation with Convery, explain, the company is all about enabling customers to maximise the return on their investment, minimising customers’ environmental impact, and giving customers significant competitive advantage in their markets. Evidence of CDE’s success in delivering on its key objectives can be seen in the fact that most major players across the five sectors that CDE serves are among the company’s customers.

“Our growth plan is very strategic,” says McGurgan. “Each of our regions has managers and supporting teams. We have a fully autonomous Indian operation which manufactures for the Indian market and ten other peripheral markets. Everything else for the seven strategic regions is manufactured here.”

In Asia (excluding China), CDE began a strategic partnership with Metso in autumn 2017. This is seeing Metso crushing and screening plant customers offered CDE wash plants as part of their investment in new plant technology.

Elsewhere, CDE has sold directly to the market since 2013, with each employee working in business development having been trained in the company’s business development academy. “We set about creating a criteria of traits and characteristics that we wanted from our business development people and created the academy to bring them in. Going direct to market means our USP is not diluted. It’s taken a lot of investment but longer term it is better for the customer and for CDE. It is another example of the company prioritising the right thing to do,” explains McGurgan.

CDE is currently delivering £1.5 million/week of wet processing projects globally, having established a portfolio of over 1,000 global completed projects. So, what do Convery and McGurgan think customers get from a CDE wash plant installation? “A lot of our engineers have grown up since the start of the company,” says Convery. “They’ve got anything from 15 to 25 years’ experience. Traditionally, someone may want to process some material and might say they want a ‘20×5 screen, this conveyor and that conveyor’ based on a gut feeling. They put it together and it works or doesn’t work, and they spend the next six months trying to get the outcome they really want. If they come to us and say they want ‘200 tonnes an hour, the material is limestone, I’ve got 20% fines and I want two products’, we go back and reference a similar job we’ve done and show them how we can guarantee their desired outcomes.”

McGurgan says: “Customers could have undergone two, three, four years of due diligence before putting their savings on the line by investing in us. We have a customer who is 67 years of age who travelled the world for four years to try and find technology to deliver a return on processing a reserve he’d acquired. We’ve met his wife, she’s given us cookies. His son is the haulier for Owens-Illinois, who are taking the end product. We’ve been there, eyeballed him and said we are going to deliver the end product that you need in the quantity that you need.”

Tony Convery has a passion for new technology. He is very excited about CDE’s recent investment in a conversion software from Solid Edge 3D to Virtual Reality. This allows the firm’s engineers to take a virtual reality tour of each customer’s washing plant design, helping to identify any potential areas for further improvement. “As soon as I saw this, I said, ‘We have to have it!’ It helps us avoid any mistakes and gets each plant customer-ready faster.”

CDE’s extensive product range includes M-Series washing plants, the first mobile washing plants to integrate feeding, screening, sand washing and stockpiling on a single chassis. EvoWash is a premium sand washing plant chosen by many of the leading global construction material producers. AquaCycle Thickener and Filter Press solutions solidify waste streams and increase water recycling to more than 95%. Meanwhile, Infinity screens are a revolutionary range of eliptical, circular and linear motion screens for applications across the company’s five business sectors.

“All our product range has sold well. Everything that we make has been designed with a specific application in mind,” explains Convery.

Key to delivering new and updated washing plant models is CDE’s Innovation Centre at the company’s global Cookstown HQ. Opened in July 2014, the centre houses a production, assembly and testing facility dedicated to the development of new products for the global materials processing sector. It is also home to CDE’s dedicated 15-strong product development team, which works each day to improve and enhance the company’s existing product range and bring new, innovative products to global customers.

A new washing plant solution for mining customers is currently being designed at the Innovation Centre. It is expected to go out for testing later this year, prior to the first customer installation in the middle of 2019.

Despite its growing size and exciting business development plan, it is clear during our conversation that Tony Convery sees CDE as possessing a strong family feel. Indeed, two of his four children work for the company. “I’m most proud of our people and our products. There is a team here; the team has generated the product and the product has been accepted on the market.

“The longevity of the company will be a legacy in this area. You go out through our front door and into the car park and practically every car has one or two child seats in the back of it. That’s a lot of responsibility. You shouldn’t see a company as a way of generating wealth for yourself. A company should support its people so they all feel part of something exciting and vibrant.


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