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Kiernan Steel nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year award

Kiernan Structural Steel

ROBBIE COUSINS meets the husband and wife team heading up Kiernan Structural Steel Ltd, nominated by clients for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards, and one of Ireland’s best-known structural steel manufacturers.

Longford-based Kiernan Structural Steel Ltd (KSSL) provides a wide range of services, which include design, value engineering and steel fabrication, steel erection, cladding, roof and floor metal decking, shear studding, welding, and castellated beam steel truss manufacture, as well as its unique in-house fire protection painting service and newest SIN Beam manufacturing service.

Frank and Dolores Kiernan.

The company, founded by Frank and Dolores Kiernan in 1989, employs over 210 people directly and through sub-contractors. The business has a comprehensive CSR programme, which was recognised at the Energia Family Awards 2019 (Family Business CSR Award), where KSSL received a silver award. The company supports charities such as the Simon Community and Mary’s Meals, as well as Longford GAA and Longford rugby club. Frank was chairman of Emmet Óg GFC for seven years. He has served on the GAA county board as development officer, as well as being a GAA Central Council delegate.

Frank Kiernan started his career as an apprentice steel fabricator in 1972. In the late 80’s, as recession gripped the country, Frank and Dolores, with a young family, took the bold step of establishing a small business that operated from a building at the back of their home.

KSSL started out making small buildings for local farmers and quickly moved on to industrial units. In 1996, the couple made an insightful move by investing in CNC machines and computerising much of their operations. This significantly increased the capacity of the business with quality and consistency in its work.

In 2001, the company was awarded a major project with Elan in Athlone. This project had almost 3,500 tonnes of structural steel. It put KSSL on the national map, subsequently successfully tendering for large projects across the country.

Kiernan Structural Steel’s manufacturing plant in Kiltyreher, Co Longford.

Shrewd investments

Speaking about the business’s gradual development over the years, Frank Kiernan says that they have always invested wisely in the best plant and equipment, as well as ensuring that staff are encouraged to expand their skills and developed careers within KSSL.

“As a result of focussing on our staff and equipment, we have sustained strong customer relations, with many repeat orders from clients. Our overall goal is always to produce quality work, on time and budget.”

Today, Frank and Dolores’ three daughters and three sons all work in the business, making it a real family-owned and managed business.

Entrepreneur of The Year nomination

This year, Frank and Dolores have been nominated as one of the 24 finalists in the ‘EY Entrepreneur of the Year’ competition.

Frank says it was a great honour to be nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards. “This nomination is special because it comes from clients. We are truly grateful to our clients for the recognition they have given us with the nomination.”

Addressing Covid-19

Dolores says that while the Covid shutdown resulted in the suspension of several contracts for a few weeks, it gave the company time to introduce and refine measures to keep their staff safe.

“Like other companies, we invested heavily to have the right measures in place to protect our staff, and by extension their families,” she explains. “At the end of the shutdown, we were well set up to meet the needs of our clients seamlessly.”

Digital construction

Digital construction has, for many years, played an essential role in the steel construction industry. BIM-related modelling software has widely been used since the mid-1990s.

“KSSL began using the drafting software StruCAD in 1996,” Frank explains. “This greatly increased our drafting capacity and ability to generate 3D models and drawings. By providing a 3D view, we assisted engineers and designers in providing better scope and clarity on project requirements from a very early stage.”

In 2019, KSSL won the ‘Ireland and UK Tekla Structures Award’ in the Sports and Recreation category for The Curragh Racecourse roof structure. As a result, it was automatically nominated for the 2020 Tekla structures worldwide competition. In 2020, it also won the ‘Structural Steel Design Award’ (SSDA) in the Sports and Recreation category.

SIN Beams being manufactured, and SIN Beams in situ.

SIN Beams

In recent years, KSSL invested in an automated robotic machine to manufacture a lightweight SIN Beam. SIN Beams are lightweight plate girders with thin sinusoidal corrugated webs, with thicknesses varying from 1.5mm to 3mm. KSSL has secured exclusive rights from the machine manufacturers for SIN Beam manufacture and distribution for Ireland and the UK.

SIN Beams are perfect for long-span roof structures. They easily give open spans of up to 60 metres. This is ideal for structures such as warehouses, industrial buildings, shopping centres, sports halls and pedestrian footbridges. SIN Beams are particularly efficient when compared to traditional roof truss structures. SIN Beams can provide significant savings for clients, with weight savings of 20 to 35% compared to traditional design methods.

KSSL has also recently ordered a Zeman SBA Compact fabrication and welding robot machine, which will increase its factory output significantly. Frank concludes by saying, “The steel industry is no different to any other industry, it must fully utilise new technology to ensure competitiveness, and that is what we pride ourselves on being able to do at KSSL.”

To learn more about Kiernan Structural Steel visit www.kssl.ie