Tapping into infrastructural expertise: How Uisce Éireann’s 2023 plans are in full flow

It’s all change these days in Uisce Éireann’s infrastructure delivery team as director Brian Sheehan tells the Engineers Journal about his new management team and fills us in on the work they have been doing behind the scenes to ready themselves for a highly ambitious delivery program in 2023, including the team’s biggest recruitment drive to date.

Deliver upwards of €1.5bn in capital projects this year

Uisce Éireann (UÉ) infrastructure delivery director Brian Sheehan, who has been in his role for a little more than a year, has wasted no time reshaping his team. He has recently completed a comprehensive review and restructuring project, which is setting the company up to deliver upwards of €1.5bn in capital projects in the coming 12 months.

Sheehan explains: “In early 2022, our new infrastructure delivery team was formed, with asset delivery and Ervia’s major projects and Water Supply Project (WSP) teams coming together as one team. This was the ideal time to step back and look at both the best structure for our newly expanded team, and how – together – we will continue to meet the demands of a rapidly growing delivery programme.”

Infrastructure delivery director Brian Sheehan

He adds that UÉ’s capital program has been expanding over the past six/seven years to keep pace with Ireland’s water/wastewater infrastructure needs: “Our delivery program is of a national scale, and we have teams working on the ground right across 26 counties, with projects at various stages of development planned out for the next decade and beyond.

The work we do touches on every community – from large-scale national projects such as Ringsend, the Greater Dublin Drainage (GDD) scheme and WSP right down to the smaller capital interventions, to everything in between.

Ambitious three-year recruitment plan

“As part of our restructuring plan, we are building on the very strong foundation and skillset we already have on the team with an ambitious three-year recruitment plan, and identifying the new capabilities we will need to future-proof the delivery programme.”

Looking at best practice further afield, and within the company itself, Sheehan worked with his newly appointed management team to land the right structure for the growing team, eventually splitting the team into delivery, commercial and portfolio pillars.

The delivery teams are now headed up by Finbarr Burns (overseeing the wastewater portfolio), Kevin McSherry (overseeing the water portfolio), and Mike Healy, program director for the WSP, and they maintain responsibility for delivery of UE’s investment program safely, efficiently and on time.

In addition, as part of the new infrastructure delivery strategy, Sheehan is directing more resources towards two growth areas – commercial and portfolio management.

The new commercial team (led by Alan Milton), will be leading strategic contract and commercial management, with a particular focus on building a commercial center of excellence and enhancing the organisation’s cost intelligence capability.

On the portfolio side, Steve Seymour is focused on delivering digitally enabled reporting, supporting portfolio management decision making and risk management across the directors, as well as delivering innovative and sustainable solutions in line with commitments included in UE’s sustainability framework.

The right structure

While having the right structure to support the capital investment program is essential, there are other factors the team are grappling with. “The challenges we’re facing here are not unique; unprecedented inflation, coupled with a very tight labor market are top of the list,” says Sheehan.

We’re just kicking off a major recruitment campaign which is targeting about 70 new hires in 2023, from recent graduates to those with more experience.

“There’s tough competition for employees, but new joiners will find themselves in good company; I’m lucky to have a dedicated, enthusiastic, and highly professional team working in infrastructure delivery. Plus, we’ve a lot to offer people – there is a huge variety of complex and challenging projects available, hybrid working arrangements, a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, plus a really strong training and development programme.”

In the role since late 2021, Sheehan reflected on an element of the work he’s most proud of: a great spirit of collaboration across all the IW teams and with industry partners. Engagement with the wider supply chain is also something Sheehan and his team are prioritising: “Our industry partners are a key cog in the delivery vehicle, and we are actively looking at ways we can more closely collaborate.”

Deliver projects more sustainably

The early contractor involvement model is a great example of this, he says. We are also driving out innovative ways of working – we ran a successful pilot earlier this year which got our team on site 50% faster, with a reduction in costs – and we are continuing to look at ways we can work and deliver projects more. sustainably.

“In infrastructure delivery we are hugely reliant on our colleagues in asset management and sustainability, our health and safety team, and supply chain, for example, who play a key role across the whole project lifecycle.

“I’ve seen some great examples of really proactive collaboration across our teams and with our external supply chain – for example, the collaborative forum which brings together our infrastructure delivery safety leaders with delivery partners to focus on enhancing safety culture and behaviors across all our sites.

“We also work closely with local authorities across the country to deliver our capital infrastructure program and look forward to the next stage in the transformation of the water sector, which will see the full integration of national water services.

“The Framework for the Future Delivery of Water Services published by the government last year recognizes the importance of a single, national strategic approach supported by strong funding commitments and proven technical systems and expertise.”

For more information about how you could play a role in helping deliver Ireland’s water and wastewater infrastructure and to view the opportunities available through the infrastructure delivery recruitment campaign, please visit the Engineers Ireland Jobs Desk and www.water.ie/careers

Author: Brian Sheehan is infrastructure delivery director and part of the executive management team at Uisce Ireland. In his role, he has responsibility for the delivery of the water and waste water capital investment programmes, which over the five-year period 2020-2024 totals a value of €5bn. The role has direct responsibility for all activities from design, planning and procurement through to construction delivery. He is a Chartered Engineer with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Limerick and is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland.

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