Born in Coalisland in County Tyrone, Barry O’Neill has worked in the plant equipment industry for two decades. In that time he has seen enormous changes with the construction industry.
“I got a summer job at Powerscreen while I was studying at Queen’s University in Belfast. During that summer I was earning some money and got a car, so I took a year out. I’m still on that year out,”said Barry.
It wasn’t just about money, though. Barry quickly found that he liked both the industry and the wider world of work as the challenges they threw up were interesting – and solvable.
“I discovered that I liked the manufacturing side of things; the building of things from scratch. I also liked the work ethic,”said Barry.
Barry hasn’t just seen the industry change, though. He also led them.
Working his way up, Barry moved from Powerscreen to Fintec, which was bought over by Sandvik, before finally moving to Maximus, where he rose to become operations director. It was here that Barry demonstrated what he could do, driving the company to develop new equipment and significantly expanding operations.
“I significantly developed the product range. Maximus had only made one machine when I arrived, there were literally only four people in the office. I started, became sales director after a couple of years and then operations director. It was bought over by a company called Rubble Master,”said Barry.
This desire to create the future of plant equipment, based on keen insight into industry needs, is what drove the founding of Tyrone International. After a meeting with Fintan McKeever, who would go on to co-found the business with Barry and become the company’s director, Barry set about defining how plant equipment could be designed and engineered to better meet the growing needs of the industry.
“I was going to go out on my own and do my own thing, but through a mutual connection I met Fintan, so we teamed up to create Tyrone International. We wanted to respond to customer needs, not to tell them what they can have but to work with them to do what they want,”said Barry.
Top of the agenda for Tyrone International was creating a deep value proposition: the company’s equipment is designed to lower costs by being reliable, easy to service and efficient in the harsh real world conditions that wash plants will endure. At the recent Hillhead 2002 show, the world’s largest recycling and aggregates exhibition, Barry and the team were able to get direct feedback from the industry on this.
“The Hillhead show was a good example to us, as it showed people like what we’re doing. We have this big thing about accessibility with our plant, about serviceability. And people like that. People were very impressed to see that ‘Oh, I can get in and change that’,”said Barry.
This was a great reward after a lot of hard work trying to assess what practical improvements could be made to plant design.
“Going through designs, at times, is a painful process, just trying to get it right. But when it works it’s a really positive experience. I’m excited about what comes next,”said Barry.
The next step
What will come next, though? Tyrone International’s plan is to continue to expand, focussing for now on the UK market and delivering forward-looking wash plants to discerning customers who need the combination of high tons per hour (TPH) throughput and low total cost of ownership (TCO).
The regulatory environment is also changing, with the UK government pushing the industry to move away from landfill as well as lower its carbon emissions. This will have an enormous effect on construction and demolition (C&D).
“It’s going to become massive. Another thing is the change from red to clear diesel. Electric is definitely the future,”said Barry.
With so much change coming down the tracks, not to mention Tyrone International’s continued growth, it is no surprise that Barry finds himself busy. These days, apart from his leadership role, Barry is focussed on both the design and engineering of equipment and meeting with customers to ensure they get everything that they need.
“I wake at about 5 a.m. At the minute I’m doing a lot to get our design work finished, getting our manufacturing online, and staying in contact with our customers,”said Barry.
Director Fintan McKeever is the first point of contact for customers but they also have direct contact with Barry, with many coming to Tyrone International’s headquarters to inspect the plant.
“That’s the service we promote: we want to always be there at the end of the phone. We want the customer to see a face too, so they come and visit us and we visit them,”Barry said.
This relationship-centric approach to business is what marks Tyrone International out: rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution, the company works to meet customer needs – and it stays with them after the sales process is complete, too, ensuring that everything works exactly as intended.
“We want to promote a value approach, that’s the way we want to go,”said Barry.