Group Director of Jones Engineering, Stephen McCabe talks about the global business’ journey through COVID-19, its role in essential services construction and why being part of the community is a priority.
Stephen McCabe’s story at Jones Engineering began in 1987 when he joined the mechanical division of the firm, H A O’Neil Ltd. In 1999 he was appointed to the Board of Directors, taking over the electrical division of the group in 2014. Today he is Group Director with a host of high-profile projects under his belt, spanning Ireland to the Middle East.
He says the firm’s role in the construction of essential services as well as its lengthy history that stems back 130 years, not only safeguarded it from the downturns born from the pandemic but helped increase business and staff. Jones market is spread across 14 countries and a wide range of sectors including life science, data centres, industrial, healthcare, food and beverage, commercial and renewable energy.
“2020 was a year like no other,” Stephen begins. “There were new challenges we faced together and new opportunities for innovation and growth.
“As most of the sectors we work in are essential, we have not had any significant impact on programme or timeline to our major projects. We have felt minimal impact to our pipeline and there have been no significant changes to our outlook beyond normal industry fluctuations.
“During the lockdown in Ireland some sectors had limited sites open however as we work in several essential sectors such as healthcare, life science, manufacturing, infrastructure and maintenance, these projects remained live. In fact, we completed upgrade works in most major hospitals throughout the country which were needed as direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also saw an increase in projects and maintenance works because of some life science and manufacturing facilities increasing production to 24/7. Overseas we delivered a number of confidential Data Centres and essential Life Science facilities which will positively impact global health.”
Diversification also supported the business’ activity throughout the year when Jones Engineering Manufacturing Ltd was launched in a recently constructed 9,000m2 centre of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA).
Among the firm’s most prominent projects in 2020 was its work for some of the world’s largest tech companies for which it delivered over 215MW of data capacity.
“One of our recent projects included the mechanical, electrical and sprinkler design and construction of a 60MW data centre in the Netherlands too, which was delivered faster than any similar sized data centre in the world,” explains Stephen.
“We also completed Kelwin 2 battery storage project for Statkraft in Kerry – the largest battery storage facility in Ireland to date – with 26MW of battery storage installed. Throughout the pandemic we have continued to work with over 90% of the world’s leading life science companies including WuXi for whom we completed a new 48,000 sq.m. facility.”
In healthcare, the firm has a long history working with St James’s Hospital. More recently it installed the complete mechanical services to the hospital’s original Energy Centre while providing maintenance services in various capacities.
Jones Engineering Group currently employs over 3,500 people with a turnover of almost €1bn per annum and a training budget of €2m. It places a huge emphasis on nurturing that large resource pool, Stephen says.
“As a multi-national contractor, the strength of our teams is not just in its breadth but also its diversity. We believe in equal opportunities for all employees, and we are higher than the industry average in relation to gender diversity and female employee participation. As a company that embraces Lean technologies and innovation, we recognise a potential opportunity in every threat and focus on creating the best outcome for our clients and their projects, our teams, our subcontractors and our suppliers.”
He adds during the pandemic, safety continued to be its biggest priority on site. “Safety has always been our number one value; priorities can change but values do not. In 2020 we continued our support for CIF Safety Week and our efforts were once again recognised at the Annual National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) Safety Awards 2020 where we won both the Exceptional High Achiever Award and the Regional Award (East).
“We continually drive, promote and maintain the physical, mental and social wellbeing of all employees and everyone is empowered through our pro-active safety culture. For our team safety is not just a standard, it’s a frame of mind.”
His sentiments about safety in the workplace are reiterated by the company’s EHS Manager, Declan Grady who says: “Safety week has never been so important. While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines, it is vital that we always remain focused on the day-to-day operations and pro-active safety culture. The best resources we have as a Group is our staff and specialist subcontractors. Their support and commitment to our ethos of ‘Nobody gets hurt’ is vital to achieving success with our safety management system.”
With a huge focus on employing the best and newest technologies coupled with a passion to drive and support a sustainable economy, Jones Engineering’s future will be as buoyant as its past, if not, more so.
Stephen says BIM technology is now a standard in its toolbox, and says, “The use of BIM from 3D technology to 4D and 5D where programming and costing is also integrated through BIM,” is just as essential.
He adds: “In conjunction with our 3D BIM technology Jones Engineering Geo Surveying Team also set out the coordinates onsite which are taken from the model using “total stations” to ensure accuracy in the field. This also includes Scan to Build of existing sites/facilities enabling early design workflows and as built accuracy.
“We also use our own Q.M.S (Quality Management System) through tablets and smartphones, to manage our Quality System, Test Packs, RFI’s, Benchmarks and punch lists. In addition, we use the latest version of Primavera P6 projects as well as other management tools such as filemaker and IsoServe. The use of these technologies is not only used on sites but an essential component of our Modular Manufacturing Facility, where our specialist team brings a change to the industry towards the provision of fast-track Modular & Bespoke Manufacturing solutions, increasing efficiency and quality in a controlled environment.
Stephen says sustainability is embedded in the firm’s ethos, and its ISO 14001 Environment Management System (EMS) accreditation is testament to this. “We recognise that we have an important part to play in protecting and enhancing the environment for future generations and to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the construction industry,” he continues.
“There has been a global realisation that current development models are unsustainable, and we are committed to embedding sustainability into the core of our activities.”
Jones Engineering extends its environmental efforts out into the local community, ensuring it leaves a lasting mark on the areas it works.
Stephen describes its efforts to support local as a tradition, a culture, and an obligation. He says: “Throughout these challenging times we continue to support local teams, charities, educational facilities, and clubs, both in Ireland and abroad. We have maintained support of the ESB Science Blast since its launch three years ago. This is a STEM education programme, one of the largest science education programmes for primary schools of its kind anywhere.”
And, following the opening of its European office in Utrecht, Netherlands it has been developing a schedule of community outreach events over the last number of years.
Its Executive Chairman Eric Kinsella also recently announced a private donation of €30m to help fund Trinity College Dublin’s planned docklands campus expansion.
Stephen credits the team for their role in the success of the business and its efforts beyond the office and site, during what has been one of the most challenging times in our modern history.
“We have been in business for over 130 years and have weathered the impact of wars, recessions and now a global pandemic. We have managed to keep our exceptionally strong teams intact during this pandemic and in addition to that our workload has resulted in employing 571 new employees in 2020. This was achieved by adapting to phone and online interviews as well as virtual careers fairs.
“None of this would have been possible without the exceptional dedication, innovation and commitment of our outstanding teams,” he concludes.