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World-class Irish Digital Construction Firm Honoured

Kirby honoured at Global Innovation Awards. The line-up, from left to right, is: Minister for Education and Professional Training, Isabel Celaá; Ambassador of Ireland, Síle Maguire; King of Spain; Queen of Spain; President of Iberdrola, Ignacio Galán

Leading the world in collaborative leading-edge construction, Irish firm Kirby Group Engineering has been recognised with a global award. The group was awarded Supplier of the Year for Digitalisation by global utility giant Iberdrola at a ceremony in Madrid.

The Irish company was nominated for the prestigious award by Scottish Power for its key contribution in constructing a leading-edge substation using the most advanced digital construction technology.

Iberdrola is headquartered in Spain and, with travel restrictions in place, Ireland’s Ambassador to Spain, Her Excellency Sile Maguire, accepted the award on the company’s behalf from Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

We’re honoured and delighted to have won this award,” said Mark Flanagan, Group Managing Director of Kirby Group Engineering. “It’s incredibly satisfying to see our people are being recognised and rewarded for their innovation and expertise.

The secret sauce for us is taking old-fashioned values like honesty and integrity, imparting those to our people, then sending them out to the world with the best technology available.”

Digital collaboration in construction

While Kirby has delivered more than 50 substations and renewable energy projects with Scottish Power, this substation was the first to make full use of Kirby’s digital construction capabilities. These include 3D modelling, extensive use of mobile technology and point cloud scanning.

“They saw the future,” says Mark. “They saw that this is the start of a new era in digital construction, where the way we use digital technology brings meaningful value. It is so impressive to see the amount of time and money that can be saved.”

He explains that Kirby builds a comprehensive 3D model of the build in advance, which enables the engineers and the client to fully visualise and iterate the design and change in advance. This pre-construction digital collaboration facilitates constructability reviews that enable a right first-time approach on site. This also supports off-site manufacturing and enhanced quality and on time delivery.

Joining forces in internationalisation

Founded in Limerick in 1964 by brothers Tom and Michael Kirby, Kirby Group Engineering is now a mechanical and electrical engineering contractor operating across Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.

Over the past decade, Kirby has worked extensively with Enterprise Ireland to diversify into overseas markets. “EI has been a great support to us as we have internationalised,” says Mark. “Over 50 percent of our business is now from international markets.”

While digital construction was already gaining ground, it has greatly accelerated because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has helped Kirby to double turnover in recent years, with sales of €150m in 2018 and close to €300m in 2020, with revenues in 2021 expected to reach €370m.

A people-first approach to business

Kirby directly employs over 1,200 highly skilled professionals, with more than 2,000 people deployed on data centre builds, substations and other sites across Europe. Mark says Kirby is particularly proud of its platinum Investors in People accreditation, a level achieved by only 2% of businesses in that Programme.

“Everybody talks about the tech, but not many people talk about the people behind it,” he says. “The technology is only as good as the people behind it, and the training and expertise you give them. That is where we believe we are winning in this space, as we invest heavily in our people.”

That investment includes tailored engineering and management programmes, extensive mentoring and in-house training in the Kirby Academy. “Our people don’t just learn about the bottom line. They learn how to build the optimum project and get to the bottom line with honesty and integrity.”

Kirby’s Technical Services Manager, Mark Danaher, was recently awarded one of Autodesk Construction Cloud’s ‘40 under 40: Champions of Construction’ worldwide, in recognition of his success in driving digitalisation and innovation in construction.

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