Plumbing & Heating Magazine sits down with Michael Stone, CEO of the Designer Group and President of the Construction Industry Federation.
One of the country’s top M&E contracting firms, Designer Group, is headed up by Michael Stone whose day job also includes holding the role of CIF President.
Designer Group has worked in the Irish and international markets since 1992 and has offices in Dublin, Limerick, London and Frankfurt which operate across a range of thriving sectors at home and abroad. Turnover is estimated to reach €120million in 2016. “The market in London, particularly commercial office projects, is extremely busy for us at the moment. Projects include the Royal Academy Museum in Piccadilly, a 56 storey tower in Blackfriars and a new cancer research unit in St Thomas’ Hospital,” says Michael. In Dublin, the firm is currently working on a number of commercial projects for Dropbox and Facebook, along with a large corporate HQ for Bank of Ireland on Baggot St. “We have a number of ongoing projects with Diageo and we have also recently won a number of large office commercial projects which will start for us in 2017.”
In order to compete successfully in the extremely competitive data centre and pharmaceutical sectors, Designer Group ensured they had the people to win work in these areas. “We brought specialists in to enhance our teams, to secure the contracts and also to carry out the work. We made a significant investment as we knew these types of projects were coming down the line and we needed to position ourselves to secure the work.” The investment has paid off, with the firm recently securing work in both sectors. “These types of projects also help to develop our people and raise standards across our entire organisation. Companies operating in these sectors value our expertise and see us as an integral part of getting their job over the line. Clients in other sectors do not necessarily value M&E contractors in the same way. They see it more of a commodity rather than a service. Pharmaceutical and data centre companies understand the critical importance of these services in their manufacturing process.”
Repeat business is extremely important at Designer Group. “At least 50% of our business in Ireland comes from repeat clients and it is the same in the UK. Companies like Diageo, ESB, Medtronic, Tullow Oil, the OPW and Kennedy Wilson continually come back to us. They are satisfied with the service we deliver and they know we operate to the highest standards.”
Plans for the future include continuing to focus on the four sectors of growth the company is currently operating in – pharmaceutical, data centres, commercial and food and beverage as well as developing BIM capabilities and upskilling people on Lean Construction practices. “One of the biggest lessons we learned when the recession hit was that we were far too reliant on our Irish business. Going forward, our target is to grow our business both in Ireland and internationally by following our clients and empowering our people to deliver for them.”
As CIF President, Michael is delighted with the progress the Federation has made with reform of the Government Contracts and also with the Construction Contracts Act finally coming into operation. He has also been a champion in his efforts to bring young people into the industry since taking up the President’s role. The numbers of apprentices and graduates have increased, however, he feels that more needs to be done in this area as there are still not enough young people coming into the industry. “The CIF is also working closely with Solas in trying to get short term training programmes in place in order to get semi-skilled people ready for work as the demand increases”.
All these issues tie into the overall perception of the industry, which said Michael, is improving. “The Construction Industry Federation has a great opportunity to work closely with the new Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government, Simon Coveney, to assist in finally getting a solution to the housing crisis which is gripping the major cities in the country at present.”
T: Designer Group on (NI) 01 8600520 or (NI) 00353 1 8600520