Building A Sustainable Legacy
Ronan Quinn, Chief Executive, Ardmac, discusses digital construction, corporate culture, and the challenge of eliminating single-plastics from the workplace. ROBBIE COUSINS reports.
Founded in 1977, Ardmac is an international construction specialist that delivers complex high-value workspaces and technical environments. It specialises in commercial fit-outs and refurbishments, cleanroom and data centre solutions.
Headquartered in Dublin, it has offices in Manchester, Craigavon and Brussels, and it plans to open new offices in Cork and Amsterdam in the near future. The company had revenues of €157m in 2018 and expects to achieve revenues of circa €170m in 2019.
With over 50% of its business generated outside of Ireland, Ardmac employs over 300 people across Europe.
Ronan Quinn, Chief Executive, Ardmac, has a background in project management. He joined Ardmac as a contracts manager in 1999 after a successful career in the London fit-out market. He oversaw Ardmac’s technology division and occupied various group roles before being appointed chief executive in 2013.
Ardmac’s expansion in recent years has been very impressive. Ronan Quinn says that this is in part down to the company’s diversity in terms of the industry sectors and geographic regions it operates across. But he adds it also about the corporate culture that the management team and staff have developed as well as the company’s early transition to digital construction.
“We provide specialist construction services to the commercial office fit-out, advanced manufacturing and life sciences sectors. We are continually assessing and updating our service offering to meet our clients’ changing needs.
“Our geographic reach currently covers Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland, and we have further continental expansion in the pipeline.
“Ardmac’s vision is to be the ‘contractor of choice’ for clients, and the workplace of choice for great people,” he continues. “Our goal is to consistently provide the ultimate solution for high-value working environments through continuous investment in the best people, technology, and processes. As a result, we have been investing heavily in the management and leadership training of our staff and in digital technology to ensure they have the most up to date tools to do their job to the highest standard possible. Most recently, our leadership team graduated from the ‘Building Better Leadership’ programme, run in partnership with Trinity Business School.”
He adds that to be the contractor of choice, Ardmac has put in place operational excellence programmes in all of its business units to ensure that customer experience with Ardmac is second to none.
“From a market perspective, we have been expanding our reach into mainland Europe in our technology-led business streams, namely life-sciences and data centres.”
To achieve their goals, Ronan Quinn and the Ardmac management team have developed the company’s operating approach in recent years.
“This included developing the culture of the company through a complete rebrand and the establishment of a set of ‘guiding principles’ for all of us to work by,” he explains. “We work with a ‘Safety First’ ethos, which forms part of our guiding principles and underpins everything that we do, wherever we operate.”
Ardmac’s high standards and pioneering spirit in the area of safety were recognised when the company received the Order of Distinction award for Safety Management from RoSPA following 2018 award wins for its Lean programme at the Irish Construction Industry Awards and Lean Business Ireland.
“We have become award-winning leaders in the areas of Lean construction and the development of BIM and digital project delivery. Adopting a Lean culture across the business has dramatically changed how we look at everything we do and has driven us to greater efficiencies in all aspects of our construction output.”
Ronan Quinn says Ardmac customers have recognised the added-value the company has to offer.
“As a result, our levels of repeat business are increasing, and we are regularly pre-selected to collaborate at the early stage of projects.
“From an operational perspective, we have improved how we perform on projects by combining Lean construction, BIM and collaborative field software on a digital platform called ‘SMART’.
“We have invested heavily in new software packages that remove paper records from site and ensure that all project information is stored centrally and available to all parties on the contract. From a hardware perspective, all our site teams and subcontractors use hand-held devices to view drawings and 3D models, and carry out quality and safety inspections that ensure a single source of truth and enable real-time project collaboration.”
Like all contractors, one of the main challenges facing Ronan Quinn and the Ardmac management team is recruitment.
“Operating in growing construction markets and trying to expand your workforce at times of practically zero unemployment is a challenge for every company in the industry also looking to maintain growth,” he explains. “Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the problem.
“We are targeting people overseas to join our team as well as targeting graduates via our graduate training programme. Recruitment is definitely a significant challenge for us at present. We are in a period of real growth across Europe, and we are actively looking for ambitious and resourceful people to join us and be part of this exciting phase of our development.”
Locally, Ardmac has invested significantly in training and developing its teams as well as presenting itself as an employer of choice for those working within the industry by demonstrating exciting career opportunities.
“By being leaders in the digitalisation of our industry and being truly innovative, we are attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry,” Ronan Quinn adds.
Ardmac has a ‘refer a friend’ programme in operation that encourages staff to refer a friend – or indeed to share their experiences of working as part of Ardmac with their peers, especially when working abroad.
“We run a referral scheme for employees to incentivise them to encourage friends and family and their broader networks to join us, which has worked well for us to date. In addition, we communicate all career progressions within our intranet to demonstrate the opportunities available and encourage our teams to take the next step in their own career within Ardmac.”
Ardmac is currently the Design and Build contractor for a new QC Laboratory on the MSD Campus in Swords, Co Dublin. Ronan Quinn says this was a significant win for the company as it allowed the company to demonstrate its expertise in modular off-site construction as well as building a facility that is being used to produce the life-saving cancer drug Keytruda.
“It’s very rewarding to be part of that. We also have two large integrated project delivery (IPD) projects on the ground at the moment that mark a significant milestone in the development of the company. One is a €300m-plus FDI investment by a large pharma company in Cork, and the second is a 60MW data centre development in the Netherlands for a confidential client. Both are significant in that we were pre-selected by the customer based on previous experiences and because, culturally, we were the best choice partner for collaboration. Both projects are proceeding exceedingly well, and I see the IPD model being a huge success. I predict IPD will be used more widely on complex construction projects as the industry embraces the collaborative benefits of Lean and BIM.”
Other notable current Ardmac projects include BioCork 2 for Johnson and Johnson and a Biogen facility in Switzerland.
Ronan Quinn is firmly focused on expanding Ardmac’s European operations in the medium term.
“Our medium-term goals are to continue expansion in Europe in the pharma and data centre sectors. We see continued significant growth opportunities in each sector.
We are also investing in our build-offsite capacity and capability, as we see the demand from our existing customers increasing for modular buildings.
“At Interphex New York this year, we announced a new partnership with Germfree, a US-based modular cleanroom provider, for Ardmac to provide Germfree clean modules in Europe. Effectively this means taking the construction of complex cleanroom suites away from the building site and prefabricating them in totality within a factory environment. The advantages are many, as it provides a rapidly deployable solution for laboratories and cleanrooms that are precision-built, ready-to-use, modular and scalable.
“I recently completed the Enterprise Ireland Innovation for Growth programme (I4G) and one of the major takeaways was always to remain relevant. We operate across several distinctively diverse market sectors, and our offering is specific to that sector. So, it is critically important that we remain relevant in each by understanding our customers’ needs and serving them well. That’s why we now have autonomous business units that have their own leadership, staff and core technical expertise.
“We have also introduced an ‘innovation process’ to capture and track new idea generation, and all our business units are tasked with bringing new ideas to fruition for their sector in a drive to have 20% of revenue by 2023 from new products or services.
Eliminating Single-Use Plastics
Ardmac has made eliminating single-use plastics a crucial part of its broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme ‘Sky Blue’, which launched earlier this year.
“We have made commitments for 2019 to support our ambition to be a more responsible business,” Ronan Quinn explains. “We currently have a company-wide programme reviewing all our single-use plastics, from exhibition merchandise and office waste practices to supply chain and on-site use of single-use plastics on our projects.
“While we have made product changes and introduced initiatives to reduce plastics, we’ve recognised that we will need industry and supply chain support to make significant impacts and the biggest challenge will be the change in mindset – bringing our teams onboard by challenging the norm. But, we are confident that we can lead the change that is needed within our industry.”
Ardmac has introduced a plastics committee with members from across the business to help it review and drive the approach across its operations. It also recently launched an online tool to help measure and manage its approach to single-use plastics at site level.
“Externally, we are working with partner organisations to support us on our journey and taking best practice from others outside of our industry through our partnership with Business in the Community.
Pieta House and Manchester Mind are Ardmac’s two employee-nominated charities for 2019, and Ardmac teams have recently completed the Darkness into Light Walk. In Hoorn, Amsterdam, the team hosted its own dedicated Pieta House walk with the other contractors on site, raising over €22,000 alone, demonstrating an immense commitment to supporting mental health and suicide awareness across its operations.
“To date, we have raised over €50,000 for our nominated charities, and in July, our volunteer team worked with Ronald McDonald House to refurbish their garden play area,” he says.
In closing, Ronan Quinn explains Ardmac is about people.
“We are about building relationships, long-term relationships with clients and employees. According to the guiding principles we work by, that means acting with honesty and integrity in all that we do and being respectful and open in how we approach our work. It means encouraging employees to be forward-thinking, to embrace change, and to share new ideas and knowledge. That experience and knowledge feeds back into projects and brings certainty to our clients, and this helps us to continue delivering superior results,” he concludes.
Original interview published in ‘Construction’ magazine. Click here to subscibe