The founders of Vision Contracting, L to r: Aidan Drummond, Pharma and Industrial Director; Colm Fehily, Commercial Director; Niall O’Meara, Managing Director; and Mick Allen, Construction Director.
On the verge of exceeding €55m in turnover in 2019, Vision Contracting is one of Ireland’s fastest-growing contracting firms. ROBBIE COUSINS reports on the contractor’s rapid rise and success.
Vision Contracting was founded in 2011 by Niall O’Meara, Managing Director; Mick Allen, Construction Director; Aidan Drummond, Pharma and Industrial Director; and Colm Fehily, Commercial Director. Each of the directors has extensive experience in delivering medium to large scale projects across Ireland and in the UK.
Headquartered in Cork, the firm is one of the fastest-growing companies in the Irish construction market. With a turnover of €36.2m in 2018, it placed 44th in the Construction magazine ‘CIF Top 50 Contractors; and turnover is expected to exceed €55m in 2019. Vision Contracting also has a strong pipeline of secured contracts for 2020.
Its broad client base includes blue-chip FDI companies such as Apple, BioMarin, MSD, Eli Lilly, Patron Capital Partners and Moorepark Technology Ltd (MTL), and it also has many small and large Irish companies and institutions on its client list.
Recently completed projects include a new production and food research facility at Moorepark Technology Ltd, Fermoy; refurbishment of the Legal Aid Board offices in Tallaght and Portlaoise; the refurbishment and upgrade of Code Hostel, Talbot Place, Dublin; the upgrade and extension of the private member suites at the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Club; the construction of a new vaccine production bio-pharmaceutical facility for MSD, Innishannon, Co Cork; and the refurbishment and upgrade of the Commercial Building at Central Plaza at College Green, Dublin.
It is currently on site with the construction of a new TK Maxx extension at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Dublin, and undertaking the fit-out of the RDI Hub and Fexco office facilities in Killorglin, Co Kerry. It has also recently commenced works on a new production and research facility for E-TEC Power Management in Blanchardstown.
Niall O’Meara says the senior management team had a clear vision of what they wanted to do from the start.
“Our goal was to create a new kind of progressive, owner-driven construction services company that is customer-focused, operating across multiple construction sectors, and with each director taking a hands-on approach to every project,” he explains. “Each one of us has different skill sets and strengths and having worked together as a team for approximately 20 years, and we are well-experienced in delivering complex projects. We also take pride in being able to meet the specific needs of all our clients across the country.
“Setting up during the downturn meant from the start that we were tendering for work in a very competitive market. As a new company, we found it challenging to prequalify for public contracts, so we focused our initial attention on the pharma and industrial market. This focus quickly expanded to include projects in the commercial and hospitality sectors in the south of the country and nationally. We secured several London-based residential projects with O’Callaghan Properties Ltd, and this helped us to scale. From 2013, Vision Contracting intensified its efforts to secure a sustainable foothold in the Dublin market, which now accounts for approximately 50% of its business.
“Within a few years, our technical, commercial and business-related construction expertise enabled us to build relationships with clients that continue today. We have extensive design and build, turnkey and Early Contractor Involvement experience, and we have been directly involved in the delivery of a diverse range of construction projects, with values from €0.5m to more than €100m. We are now active in most constructions sectors.”
With Lean a central part of its operations, Vision Contracting has been very successful at delivering complex projects successfully with a customer-focused and hands-on working approach. It has used the Last Planner System to help improve productivity in its construction processes for its pharma operations and to improve predictability and reliability in construction production.
“The Last Planner system allows production planning and related decisions to be mapped at the process level. Our Lean approach also helps to promote the use of offsite construction to reduce site manhours and in turn improves the quality of our building and installations,” explains Aidan Drummond, Pharma and Industrial Director, Vision Contracting.
Working in Partnership
Vision Contracting works in close partnership with its clients, their design teams and advisors to achieve optimal construction solutions that deliver the best value.
“We have distinguished ourselves from our peers by focusing on precisely what the client wants and delivering that on time and within budget. Our commitment to solutions-based working and our collaborative and partnering approach to projects has resulted in us winning repeat business from many of our clients,” Colm Fehily, Commercial Director, Vision Contracting, explains.
He continues, “Our core values are founded on our absolute dedication to customer service, giving value for money, operational excellence and the protection of the health, safety and welfare of our people and all those involved in our construction activities.”
Vision Contracting offers a comprehensive range of building and refurbishment activities across a diverse range of industries and sectors. These include main contracting; management contracting; construction partnering; civil, structural and architectural (CSA) work package contracting; and design and build contracting.
“When a client works with Vision Contracting, they are partnering with a highly progressive company built around a strong, experienced and proven team,” Colm Fehily adds. “As a medium-sized contractor working on a national basis, our strategy is to stay lean and agile, and to take on a range of projects from mid-sized to major, but always with a customer-centric, hands-on approach.”
With a view to the company’s future sustainability, Vision Contracting has established a foothold in several specialist niche markets, where entry barriers are high. The company concentrates its efforts on securing repeat business as it works to secure more framework opportunities, and it partners with developers and funders as an alternative to traditional tendering and procurement arrangements.
“For example, we invest in developer-led projects and provide building services as required,” Niall O’Meara explains. “We can deliver all groundworks, building work and fit-out works from our own resources. This level of service enables greater flexibility at site level. We also have a proven background in pre-construction, value engineering, project and construction management, and provide complete delivery solutions.
“Our strategy is to scale out rather than scale-up. By doing this, we spread the risk.
“Vision Contracting is not your standard building firm. We have a broad base of expertise within the company, and we are adding to this all the time. Experience has taught us that it is better to have diversity in what we do rather than focus on one market area where many companies are competing.”
Vision Contracting employs over 80 people. Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges facing the company.
“Like everyone else, getting the right people is challenging. We have been fortunate as we have a broad network of contacts in the industry, and many people who have worked with us in the past and emigrated, have returned in recent years and joined the Vision Contracting operation. But in a market where there is practically zero unemployment, even if a candidate has the right qualifications on paper, they may still not be an ideal fit for the company,” Niall O’Meara explains.
Mick Allen, Construction Director, Vision Contracting, is concerned about the dwindling number of trades-based managers on site.
“While construction professionals are essential in project management, having experienced tradespeople who can build and manage people is of as much importance. Unfortunately, the high number of tradespeople coming to retirement age is worrying. The sector must bring through enough new talent to replace them.”
Addressing On-Site Challenges
Speaking about current on-site challenges that contactors have to overcome, Mick Allen says that some projects continue to be held up because of incomplete design information and late decision making.
“Delays in projects because of drawings or amendments not being ready on time are frustrating and costly, and this issue needs to be addressed. I understand that design teams are under-resourced, but delays cost money and create conflict.”
He suggests more Early Contractor Involvement on projects could go some way to reducing delays.
“If contractors and subcontractors can sit down with the design team at an early stage in the process, many problems can be ironed out on the drawing board before they get to site.”
Looking at the coming 18 months, Niall O’Meara says that Vision Contracting plans to extend its footprint within the industry by sector and location.
“We currently have offices in Cork and Dublin and will open a regional office in Limerick in the coming months. The strategy to spread ourselves wide, but remain focused on customer service, continues to work. The high level of repeat business we get is confirmation that this approach has been successful. We will also continue to expand our workforce as we find the right people.
“We are delighted with the progress we have made since we set up in late 2011, and look forward to working with existing and new clients as the business grows,” he concludes.
To learn more about Vision Contracting, visit www.visioncontracting.ie