Truly, madly, digital: ACB Group on the future of construction technology

by | Jun 22, 2021

‘We understand how construction technology is reshaping the industry and the future of work.’ This is the powerful digital mission statement you’ll find on ACB Group’s website. The Co. Cavan-based company has been delivering BIM design and construction since 2017 across Ireland and also tenders in places like Germany, Denmark and the Nordics were there are opportunities in the data centre market.

The company uses a myriad of technology to deliver on projects from augmented and virtual reality, to specialised HR systems to streamline engagement with its global team. It has also teamed up with another Irish firm, ConstructionBOS, to manage its pipeline and support project activity in one central platform. Working across commercial, industrial, healthcare, education and mixed-use projects, the ACB Group team has doubled over the last year.

Its digital focus means it has a global footprint and is not restricted by borders – something CEO Georgina Quigley says allows them to be competitive on a worldwide scale. “We work in agile power teams that we deploy across Europe and in Ireland,” she says. “That’s what’s different about how we operate. That’s also how we’re scalable.”

The company has been growing its European client base and its focus on digital for the last four years. Rather than hinder growth, the business has continued to grow during the pandemic.

“We were able to continue as if nothing had happened and do more, better and faster, because we’re now not travelling around the world to meet people,” Quigley says. “We could collaborate with our supply chain through Teams, BIM, Revit. We’re now very fluid. It’s all very interactive and transparent.

“You can get on a call and get things sorted out, it doesn’t go down a tunnel for six months. Covid has also left people dotted all over the globe who might not normally be available to us. We’re independent of location and so able to attract really smart, cool people.”

With a new R&D Innovation Hub coming soon to its head office near Ballyjamesduff there are also plans to create ACB[1]Manufacturing (ACB-m) where the virtual world meets the real world to design, manufacture and assemble off-site. ACB saw the need for a truly digital approach due to the increasingly complex nature of high-tech and critical infrastructure projects.

It’s all about providing the best fit to deliver projects. Chief Operations Officer, Colin Meade, believes adopting a digital approach will encourage talent into the industry at a time when Covid and Brexit is affecting the labour market.

“Construction pays people very well and we need to get a little bit of value back into our industry, particularly in Ireland where people feel going to work for a multinational is the best route forward,” he says. “As an industry we offer better opportunities for advancement and the nature of what we do requires us to be dynamic rather than process led.

“It’s a much more welcoming place for women and other personality types,” he adds. “Now we’re starting to recognise the value of people who have a collaborative working ethos and it’s not an old hierarchical structure.”

Changing workplace practices as a result of Covid have also been beneficial. “We’re more effective in communicating and getting more opportunities to communicate with key influencers and decision makers,” he says.

“Remote working has also allowed us to develop personal relationships that weren’t as strong before as we would have liked. The down side is we still build things on the ground. Not being able to get out onto a project and get that feel for how it is has been a little lost but overall hugely positive,” he adds.

ACB Group believes in challenging the status quo and is exploring digital and development opportunities with help from Enterprise Ireland. “BIM is the biggest enabler for us,” says Georgina Quigley. “You still have nuances at your last 10 per cent of delivery, things will happen but we’re looking at solutions for that. We’ll have mobile workshops that will allow us to model on site. Getting it right first time is key, reducing that 20 per cent capital cost that everyone is focusing on,” she adds.

If understanding construction technology is the first step, ACB Group are more than getting it right.

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