Noel Brady from KORE Insulation talks to Aoife Kinsella about the core values behind 23 years of growth and innovation and their strategy for success in changing times.
Covid doesn’t offer many silver linings, but for KORE Insulation, it has underscored the value of being agile and listening to customers; just two of the qualities that have propelled this Irish manufacturer to success in its 23 years serving the construction sector.
As Managing Director Noel Brady confirms, “we can turn a down-time into a success”. He advises other businesses to “use the opportunities available to you and the time to upskill, create new customer communication streams, and always be on hand to assist when you can.”
KORE Insulation has weathered many changes since its establishment in 1997, not least the recession in 2008 which hit the industry hard. But challenging times taught the growing company valuable lessons about resilience and adaptability.
An Irish family firm
KORE’s is a story of spotting and maximising opportunities. The business was initially founded as Airpacks Ltd by Tommy Brady, Helen Brady and Jimmy Macken, who spotted a gap in the Irish construction market for high quality, long lasting and sustainable Expanded Polystyrene Insulation (EPS).
Their first site was a humble 60ft x 190ft factory in need of extensive repairs. But the business quickly took off, powered by an agreement with Amalgamated Hardware in a distribution deal that included over 200 stores.
As demand and resources grew, the premises underwent numerous extensions and expansions. The now-famous KORE Insulation brand kicked off in 2007, spurring further growth. Diversification into additional product opportunities followed, giving the business the chance to reach new markets with their Irish-made insulation.
Today KORE Insulation manufactures a complete range of high-quality EPS insulating solutions at its 45,000ft+ state-ofthe-art facility in Kilnaleck, Cavan.
Reaching the retrofit market
Introducing the KORE Fill range marked a key milestone, enabling the business to broaden their horizons. “KORE Fill helped to increase our presence in the retrofit market, supplying older builds with improved energy efficiency at a lower cost compared to other insulation materials and methods.”
Before long, KORE’s Retrofit Division was up and running, which Noel describes as “a one-stop-shop for home, community and commercial energy upgrades, offering project management from start to finish”.
Customers drive innovation
KORE serves a large and diverse customer base, including insulation contractors, architects, engineers, building developers, general building contractors and other manufacturers.
The company also works directly with homeowners, community organisations and commercial businesses, alongside a variety of manufacturers, to offer retrofit services.
“We have positioned ourselves to incorporate all aspects of the construction industry, from retrofit to new build”, says Noel. “We are continually building relationships with key manufacturers and suppliers and expanding our reach by working with builders merchants throughout the country to supply KORE EPS in all areas, including Northern Ireland.”
For every customer challenge, the KORE team have a solution. As Noel explains: “Our customers want products that meet and exceed the building regulations and requirements. They seek products that are easy to work with and install and help solve a problem. KORE EPS meets this need.”
“We are focused on lean construction and lean manufacturing. Many of our customers want solutions that come with backup and support. Our products are NSAI/BBA certified, have the required environmental product declarations, technical backup and certifications.”
Customer input is integral to innovation and success. “We’re always listening to our customers, and a lot of the change we’ve implemented has been a direct result of the feedback we’ve received.”
A personalised sales approach ensures KORE stands out. “Each customer enquiry is answered within one day, with support and guidance for the project at hand. We listen to our customer needs and how best we can assist. We assign one person to each customer, who will liaise with all departments to ensure you get the solution you need.”
From a small family-run enterprise, KORE has grown into an industry-leading company nationwide, with nearly 50 full-time employees across administration, technical, sales, marketing, operations, production and senior management. “We succeed by running our business like a family,” Noel affirms. The company is headed by Noel; Caroline Ashe Brady, Commercial Director, and Pauric Kavanagh, Operations Director; supported by their dedicated staff, bringing years of experience from inside and outside the organisation.
Key personnel include Andrew Butler, who has been KORE’s Technical Business Development Manager and in-house BIM expert for the past eight years. Steven Magee has been Business Development Manager for over 15 years. Regional Sales Managers Jonathan Malone, Donovan Ogle and Quality Manager Fergal Harrison, who keeps a close eye on all products that leave the factory all play key roles.
The Technical team includes Technical Sales Manager Leon Creamer, Support Assistant Gerald Olwill, and newest member Paulina Mlodawska, Product Development Engineer.
The office team is fronted by Office Administrators Ailish O’Reilly and Glen Gargan, who manage the office operations and sales process, Sinead Ashe, Office and HRM Manager, and Accounts and GDPR Manager Breda Briody.
Noel isn’t short of praise for his employees. “We believe our people set us apart. KORE prides itself on having the most enthusiastic, skilled and driven team committed to producing and supplying high quality insulation solutions to the market. Dedicated. Innovative. Experienced.” And much more.
The Marketing team, led by manager Brian Flax and Executive Lisa Downey, are responsible for online and offline communications, utilising multiple channels to raise awareness about KORE’s brand and products.
Communications include sharing upcoming events, testimonials, case studies and in-house videos across all of the major social media platforms, and regular advertising in industry publications. With Covid, engagement has become even more important.
Events also play a big part in customer connection. In normal years, KORE regularly exhibits at major industry events including The Hardware Show, the Architecture Expo, SEAI Energy Show and SelfBuild Live Events in Dublin, Cork and Belfast.
2018 was a tremendous year as KORE scooped Most Innovative Business of the Year and Overall Business of the Year Awards at the Cavan Business and Tourism Awards. KORE were also selected as finalists in the Small Business Category at the SEAI Energy Awards and picked up a third win for Energy Efficiency Project of the Year at the KPMG Property Industry Excellence Awards.
2020 continued the impressive sweep of accolades, including two wins at the Small Firms Association Awards; one in the manufacturing category and the top trophy, Overall Business of the Year.
KORE values the relationships developed with organisations, including Hardware Association Ireland, Guaranteed Irish, Small Firms Association, National Insulation Associations of Ireland and the UK and Irish Green Building Council. The business also works closely with Electric Ireland, SEAI and the NSAI.
Noel and his team recognise the challenges facing the sector, but are confident their positioning helps them continue to create new opportunities: “Ireland’s existing housing stock is in need of deep retrofit upgrades. This presents a huge opportunity to our retrofit division. There are many new upgrade schemes currently being announced by government in its drive to improve energy efficiency that will present us with more opportunities in this space.”
Addressing skilled labour shortages in the construction industry is a priority. “We are actively working to help upskill the industry and provide more training opportunities at local level.”
Top Tip? Know and make the best use of opportunities available, even in downtime, by listening and responding to buyers, spotting gaps in the market, using the time to upskill and reach out to customers, and always be ready to help.