With thirty years’ experience, J&S McKee Ltd. are one of Northern Ireland’s finest civil engineering, plant hire and construction companies, working directly for clients and also providing their services to the industry’s leading main contractors. We visited their HQ in Portglenone, County Antrim to get and insight into this outstanding, multifaceted, multidiscipline family operation from managing director Sean McKee.
J&S McKee is one of Northern Ireland’s most highly-regarded construction and civil engineering companies, having worked on small- and large-scale private and public projects throughout the UK for the past three decades. Complementing their vast experience and knowhow, they adapt an innovative approach to modern day methods, deploying a highly-skilled workforce to deliver a wide variety of projects on time, to budget and to precise client specifications.
The range of services provided includes civil engineering, ground works, plant, machinery, labour hire and formwork reinforced concrete construction.
J&S McKee has the wherewithal to carry out everything from large-scale civils work on commercial applications to site clearance and sub structures for private domestic projects. They can provide bulk excavations and site clearance, sub-structure works to include basement and reinforced retaining structures, main drainage, site servicing and hard landscaping; reinforced concrete works; highway works on a sub-contract basis; and the supply and installation of steel sheet piling.
As well as being large enough to manage large-scale projects, J&S McKee offers personal interaction with clients, guaranteeing a very high quality project delivered as demanded.
Reflecting on the genesis of the business, Sean McKee comments: “It was formed 30 years ago by my father, John, who is semi-retired now. He was a joiner by trade and started off working on commercial and residential construction sites. He did a lot of public housing and one-off private dwellings as well as small commercial projects in the Antrim / Derry area. It just grew from there and developed over the years.”
Sean joined the family business in 2004 and has been MD since 2010. “Traditionally, it would have been more residential and commercial construction orientated but now the business is more civil engineering and plant hire based. I was a civil engineer myself before I joined, having worked with Graham Construction from 2000 until ’04.” With a Degree in Building & Construction Engineering & Management from University of Ulster tucked under his arm, Sean was ideally qualified to take the family business in a new direction.
With the focus having switched towards civil engineering and plant hire, J&S McKee generates direct employment for 20-25 skilled workers, usually spread across a number of jobs. Sean is pleased to report that the change of direction has been a resounding success and that they have been extremely busy over the last four-five years.
“We’ve worked recently on the A2 Shore Road duelling scheme for Graham Construction as well as various projects for McLaughlin & Harvey, including the Belfast Waterfront Exhibition and Conference Centre. We’re currently working on wind farms in Antrim for Moriarty in Kerry, for whom we do a lot of plant hire and civil engineering work.”
J&S McKee came into what is essentially a niche market at just the right time: “There is a shortage of good civil engineering contractors and subcontractors and that’s the gap in the marketplace that we moved to fill,” Sean notes. “I have men on the ground to get the job done. Our unique selling point is that we have our own skilled men – engineers, pipe layers etc. – to complement the plant and we will also take on the concrete work and the earthworks.
“We offer the full package, all in-house. We have the plant and the personnel and every site will have a fully-qualified engineer as a supervisor, so every project is professionally managed from start to finish, with expert direction and full communication with the client. Of course, it’s not easy finding good staffs that are able to work to the high standards that we insist upon, but we have been fortunate in that regard and most of our employees have been here for numerous years.”
While the vast majority of work is in the greater Belfast area, J&S McKee are open to working anywhere in Ireland and the UK, having provided key services to the construction of schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow for McLaughlin & Harvey when things were quiet at home. “We still do quite a number of one-off private houses as well,” says Sean.
As for the main contractors they work with, the Portglenone man adds: “In the last three years, we have predominantly been working for Graham Construction, McLaughlin & Harvey and Moriarty. We’re also currently doing earthworks, subcontracting and sheet piling at Allstate in Belfast for O’Hare & McGovern. In addition to that, we take on houses and small commercial properties – shops, offices, etc. – across Northern Ireland for private clients.”
Focussed management has contributed enormously to the ongoing success of J&S McKee Ltd. “We offer a very strong management-based service,” Sean confirms. “Every project is properly managed and well run. We operate high-quality plant with good staff and that’s why we get so much repeat business. Once you meet all standards and expectations in terms of time, quality and Health & Safety, then there is a high chance that people will continue to do business with you.
“You have to be prepared to spend money to guarantee the best possible service. We invest a lot of money in plant and add new units every year. This January, we purchased two new Hitachi 20-tonne excavators and that’s part of our strategy to keep the fleet fresh. If you aren’t going to turn up for a job with good plant and good staff, then you might as well forget about it.
“You have to invest the money and you also have to put in the time and hard work.”
In 30 years, J&S McKee Ltd. have never been found wanting in any of these areas. That’s why they are widely regarded as Northern Ireland’s civil engineering and plant hire contractor of choice.
J&S McKee Ltd.,
158 Moneygran Road,
Tel: 028 25821187
Mobile: 078 5538 4999
Taken from Building Ireland magazine, May/June 2016, Vol 2, No 2