Sean McElligott | Lynskey Engineering

Mechanical engineering contractor Lynskey Engineering has successfully combined over 50 years’ experience with a focus on modern methods of construction and continuous improvement.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, having a strong track record of working on expansion projects for multinationals stood to Dublin-based Lynskey Engineering, which has consistently maintained its annual turnover at €35-40m for the past five years and employs 100 people.

“We were fortunate when the construction industry was shut down as we have a number of clients in the Foreign Direct Investment sector and these projects were deemed to be critical infrastructure. We were able to keep the majority of our site workforce busy by moving people from some of the more traditional construction sites which had to close,” says Managing Director, Sean McElligott.

At present, Lynskey’s work is divided between the data centre, commercial, retail, healthcare and hotel sectors, with 40% of its turnover now coming from international markets such as Germany and the Netherlands. Its international journey started with retailer Primark over ten years ago. Having worked on its Irish stores, Lynskey went on to install mechanical services in many Primark stores in mainland Europe with different main contractors.

Lynskey got involved in the data centre sector in Ireland over 10 years ago, providing services such as ventilation, fuel supply systems and water supply systems, and has gone with main contractors it has worked with here to other European markets.

“Data centre work is all tendered, but because we got into the sector quite early, we have become very familiar with what is required. With these projects, the programme tends to be aggressive and the end date has to be met. The experience our workforce has gained and the fact that we have demonstrated our ability to deliver on time have been a big part of our success,” says McElligott.

“Another strong ingredient of our success is the longstanding relationships we have built up with main contractors and clients. If a genuine issue arises that nobody has foreseen, we strive to work it out together. We are not claims-driven; if a contract has been secured at a price and we spot a few holes during the job, we proceed on the basis of trust.”

Lynskey has found that the development of strong relationships with main contractors leads to better project outcomes: “From the outset we realised the only way to deliver on these jobs was through having a strong collaborative approach. For example, if we needed a scaffold, the main contractor’s response was ‘When do you need it?’, whereas the more traditional response might be ‘You should have priced for that’. We realised from early on that we were all in this together to get the job done.”

While there is a lot of pressure with data centres to deliver quickly and margins have tightened over the years, McElligott says the experience gained has resulted in greater efficiencies and reduced costs. “Projects in the technology sector tend to be particularly programme-driven whereas building an office block presents quite different challenges from a coordination point of view as each building is bespoke and the detailed coordination is more time consuming.”

Move to modular

Offsite fabrication is something that Lynskey looks at for all of its projects, having seen the benefits that it brings. “The more we can fabricate in the factory, the more we reduce man-hours on site, which means fewer accidents, greater efficiencies and a higher quality of finished product delivered. If items are produced in a controlled environment, the end result is much cleaner. This works particularly well for us with the likes of packaged plant rooms, which we deliver in a containerised structure and drop onsite,” McElligott explains.

“Some of our clients take the view that even though it might be more expensive to do offsite fabrication they are willing to pay a premium for it because of the improvements in quality and certainty it results in. In other cases the main contractor opts for offsite fabrication because it results in a more cost-effective solution overall.” An example of this is when Lynskey constructs a weathered plant room and all that goes with it, which mechanically may be more expensive, but takes costs out of the civil engineering side of things.

ISO standards and sustainability

Continuous improvement is embedded in Lynskey’s culture. Originally established in 1964, Lynskey has continuously achieved ISO quality management accreditation since 1992. Over the intervening years, the firm has progressively developed a quality approach to all procedures and practices in the design, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of mechanical building engineering services in line with the evolution of the international standard. The use of building information modelling has also become essential in the business and the norm on all projects.

Lynskey operates an integrated management system and is certified to ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System, ISO 14001:2015 Environmental System and ISO 45001:2018 Health & Safety Management System as well as Safe T Cert. In line with its ISO goals, Lynskey employed a third-party company in the past year to make an employee assistance programme available to all staff.

“With some of our more corporate clients, there is an emphasis on environmental, social and governance factors, so they prioritise engagement with contractors and companies that have sustainable policies at heart,” says McElligott. “For us, it is a case of ensuring that products and consumables can be recycled. We avoid using compounds that might be damaging to the ozone layer and look at the constituents of all materials to maximise the extent to which they can be reused or recycled.”

When it comes to the sustainability of the business itself, Lynskey is always looking at how things are changing in the market. “We were fortunate to be early arrivals in the data centre space, but maybe in ten years’ time there will be some new technology and things might have moved on from there. It will be interesting to see how the pandemic is going to affect the demand for commercial office blocks – some schools of thought suggest the number of square metres should be greater so people are spread out, but then again, employers are likely to have a higher percentage of their people working from home,” says McElligott.

“Our business model is predicated on keeping a reasonably diverse portfolio of projects going, mainly in the private sector. We have tended not to do too much government work as in our experience contracts used within that sector can be quite adversarial – the tender price at which a project is secured tends to become the budget for the job, so that when things arise that are not foreseen, there isn’t the money to deal with them.”

McElligott believes that health and safety has progressed in a major way among Irish contractors in the past ten years and has become part of the general culture with buy-in from all employees. Lynskey has four full-time health and safety officers and its Environmental, Health and Safety Manager Christy Roche came from a mechanical background.

“Christy made the transition from being a foreman on our sites to the office and gaining all the necessary safety qualifications. It is invaluable to have someone who has come from a trade background in a role such as this as the site teams respect him and his 20 years with the company,” notes McElligott.

“We have found in mainland Europe that the approach to safety is different. In some cases our procedures are more stringent and in others we can bring some of the learning back home to improve our set up.”