Identifying new markets and constantly improving its offering to clients are the basis of Roadbridge’s sustained growth trajectory, says managing director Conor Gilligan


Its focus on delivering above and beyond client expectations and looking at new markets and areas to win a steady stream of Irish and international infrastructure contracts for its team of more than 800 people helped boost Roadbridge’s global sales by over 20 per cent to €278 million in 2018. But it was also a year of consolidation for the company, according to Conor Gilligan.

‘Delivery of critical infrastructure projects’

“Having weathered the storm of the recession for 10 years, the company is back on track to be the global partner of choice in the delivery of critical infrastructure projects,” he says.

“We have consolidated our place in the civil market with a well-diversified portfolio of clients and contracts. The last year has seen us active in all our key sectors, including oil and gas, water services, marine, renewables, motorways, aviation, motorways, pharma and IT, and operation and maintenance.”

Although Limerick-headquartered Roadbridge had never worked outside Ireland before 2010, international markets added up to 60 per cent of sales in 2018 and the company now has offices in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Stockholm, Oslo and Doha, as well as in Dublin.

However, 2019 will see a shift back towards Ireland following several significant project wins, including the North Runway at Dublin Airport, work at Dublin Port and motorway construction on the N4 in Sligo.

New contracts in the UK, a market that has accounted for around 60% of the company’s business in recent years, include significant marine projects at the ports of Cromarty and Greenock in Scotland and work on the High Speed 2 rail network in England.

Looking to expand into further markets

But, with Brexit looming, the company is looking to expand into further markets. “Norway is rolling out a large motorway development programme and that’s an area we’re quite skilled at so we now have an office in Oslo,” says Gilligan.

“The procurement process has been quite slow but we feel we are getting close to commencement of some projects there. It’s a huge market and something that could suit us very well anyway, but particularly in light of the Brexit threat.

“Uncertainty is the biggest issue surrounding Brexit because nobody knows what’s going to happen. We have to prepare ourselves. We have well over 800 staff now and we are always looking to redeploy people to different regions when markets dry up.”

One thing that won’t be changing, says Gilligan, is the company’s focus on enhancing its offering. Roadbridge has, for example, been involved with the Considerate Constructors Scheme in the UK since 2011.

The scheme aims to improve the image of the construction industry by encouraging best practice by companies in their dealings with and impact on the general public, the workforce and the environment.

“The scheme is based around corporate social responsibility in relation to the area you’re working in, your staff, the client and the community and how you interact and leave a positive legacy.

“It was something we embraced from the start as it fitted in with our ethos of being a good neighbour and also reflected a lot of what we had been doing anyway but hadn’t necessarily been recording and marketing.”

Roadbridge is now in the top two per cent of all sites audited by the scheme in the UK, says Gilligan. It was also one of the pilot companies when the scheme launched in Ireland in 2017.

Gold Award at 2018 Considerate Constructors Scheme Awards

And in 2018, Roadbridge’s North Runway Construction Project 1 at Dublin airport became the first Irish-registered project to win a Gold Award at the 2018 Considerate Constructors Scheme Awards.

Roadbridge has also just won Gold and most Considerate Site Runner Up Awards for the construction of the forest holiday village at Center Parcs, Longford, in the 2019 awards.

Some of the considerate practices and innovations that were commended by the judges on this project included screening and spraying areas with bio-detergent to prevent invasive species such as Japanese knotweed being brought onto the site by construction equipment; the site’s online CLOCS reporting form system, which integrated online reports into the safety management system; provision of summer work placements and equipment for sports clubs; and the team leaving food out for fallow deer.

“Our plan over the next number of years is to further consolidate our company as the civils partner of choice and continue to grow by embracing new ideas, innovations and technology.”

Another important win for the company last year was the overall National Q Mark title for Civil Engineering Group of the year for its quality management system, an accolade it had previously picked up in 2014.

Work is also underway to improve and update various systems. At the beginning of last year, the company set up a BIM department, which successfully achieved certification to PAS 1192 (BIM Level 2) in December.

It is now transitioning to the newly published ISO 19650, which covers the organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including BIM.

Last year, meanwhile, the company’s health and safety management system was successfully certified to ISO 45001. According to Gilligan, 2018 also saw significant advances in the company’s lean management programme.

Unlike many companies in the sector, Roadbridge has not been too badly affected by the skills shortage to date. “We’re a self- performing contractor so we retain all our own staff, even during lean times,” says Gilligan.

“We try to keep everybody employed because that’s where the company’s intellectual property lies. We have kept our full crew for the last number of years so, while we are recruiting, it’s not at the level of some companies.

“Our approach has always been to keep our staff and resources and try to win contracts for them. Others may win the contract first and then try to recruit for it.”

Conor Gilligan, Roadbridge.

However, staff retention, along with the internationalisation of the business, have been the biggest challenges faced by the company in recent years. “As well as good employment conditions, an order book is key to staff retention and we are currently in a very strong position with regard to that.”

While there’s plenty of talk at the moment around lack of resources in the industry, Gilligan believes it would be a bad idea to rush into bringing down some of the barriers against entry into the market.

No return to overheating in economy

“We cannot go back to creating a situation that led to overheating in the economy by importing thousands of workers from abroad nor should we consider any form of deregulation in the industry to facilitate easier entry,” he says.

“Companies such as ours have invested heavily in all the required procedures for a safe and efficient execution of contracts. I would hate to see any dropping of standards just to facilitate fast-tracking projects that essentially are not going to be fast-tracked anyway because a lot of them are still only in the planning stages.”

As a solution to the current shortage of resources, Gilligan believes Irish firms should be encouraged to form joint ventures with international contractors. “I don’t think we should create a false economy here for something that may be short term. The long-term perspective should be to encourage more of our teenagers to pursue careers in construction.”

Involved in several joint ventures

Roadbridge itself is already involved in several joint ventures, including Roadbridge FCC, formed with Spanish infrastructure firm FCC Construcción, which was awarded the main contract for the design and construction of Dublin airport’s new 3.1km North Runway last November.

The company has also been working with Italian engineering and construction specialist in the oil and gas sector Sicim since 2003. More locally, it has joint ventures with Sisk and Keating.

Gilligan describes the Roadbridge ethos as being unchanged since the company was set up 52 years ago. “Our goal is to be the partner of choice for any client with an infrastructure need.

“We have maintained our self-delivery model over the years, which means we can guarantee an effective proven and safe delivery model where we are in full control of all aspects of delivery.

“Our plan over the next number of years is to further consolidate our company as the civil partner of choice and continue to grow by embracing new ideas, innovations and technology while at the same time being true to our principles, which will result in a timely and safe delivery.” O'RiordanSponsoredconstruction,Roadbridge
Its focus on delivering above and beyond client expectations and looking at new markets and areas to win a steady stream of Irish and international infrastructure contracts for its team of more than 800 people helped boost Roadbridge’s global sales by over 20 per cent to €278 million in...