Next year will see KR Group marking its 20th anniversary but in the meantime the company already has plenty to celebrate having recently officially achieved Carbon Neutral status and received award recognition within Scotland.
The business was created by husband and wife team, Kenny Robertson and Nicola Fraser, who set up KR Steel Services in 2003. Kenny had been a Steel Erector by trade and decided to take the leap by striking out on his own with just an old van and a shed. Over the years the company has expanded and now goes by the name of KR Group; encompassing KR Steel, KR Cladding, KR Solutions and KR Bon Reduction.
KR Group now employs 48 people in a range of roles including HR, Finance, Project Management, Estimating, Welding, Steel Erector, Cladding and Mechanics. This strong workforce allows the company to service the construction industry nationwide, completing large-scale projects for businesses such as CHAP Construction, Glulam Solutions, Morrison Construction and Baker Hughes.
Despite its growth, KR Group remains family-run and passionate about supporting its community. It invests a significant amount of time visiting schools across the North-East of Scotland, delivering construction workshops and group activities to show the next generation of construction workers what opportunities are open to them. Furthermore, 18% of the company’s workforce are in ‘earn and learn’ roles, such as Apprenticeships, Traineeships, Internships and Student Placements.
Mirroring its community efforts, KR Group is also proactive from an environmental point of view, as demonstrated by the fact that it is now a member of The Partnership Platform, a global registry of like-minded organisations in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We’ve chosen to hold ourselves accountable and work towards real tangible change when it comes to safeguarding our environment and combatting climate change,” explains Mr Robertson. “In March we officially became Carbon Neutral and achieved our PAS 2060 Certificate.
“KR Bon Reduction is our pilot scheme initiative, taking used cladding waste and repurposing it. For example, we take used composite cladding panels that would otherwise go to landfill, strip them and standardise their size. We’re left with a high standard of PIR Board ready to be used as insulation in walls, roofs and flooring.
“We are scaling up this project with the construction of a new Repurposing Facility this Summer, part funded by Zero Waste Scotland and ERD Fund. It will have specialist equipment that will strip the composite panels for us, making the process a lot easier. At the moment, we do this manually!
“We’re also discussing building an onsite wormery, with the help of ‘Newburgh Worms’. We’ll start off small with office food waste and go from there.”
Further highlighting the strength of its operation, KR Group has already had a really positive year so far, having attended both the FSB Awards and Northern Star Business Awards as finalists.
For the most recent final, the NSB Awards, it was shortlisted for ‘Business of the Year’ and ‘Staff Matter’. “Our initial application was pre-covid, and the finals were hugely delayed, but we were proud to be recognised for the work we do behind the scenes for our employees,” adds Mr Robertson. “It was a great reminder of how far we’ve come in just a year and of what we can achieve in the next 12 months with the same team work and resilience.”
As it looks to build further on growing reputation, KR Group is now looking to add further to is customer base, with its typical clients tending to be from either the agricultural or oil and gas sectors. However, it has also seeing an increase in commercial contracts.
KR Group was recently awarded a new contract with its client Leiths Scotland, providing and erecting all structural steel and cladding for its warehouse build at Dornie Quarry, Fort William. Works are due to commence this Summer.
“The trends vary depending on how the economy is doing,” says Mr Robertson. “Of course, Covid mixed things up a little!
“Following COP26, a big focus is combating climate change and creating sustainable food sources. We were recently awarded a contract with Nofitech to supply all steelwork and cladding for the build of a fish farming facility in Strathcarron, Scotland. Properly managed, aquaculture is said to be the most sustainable way to end world hunger.”
While its emphasis on sustainability and helping the local community set it apart from many companies, another key differentiator is the lengths KR Group is prepared to go for its clients.
“We like taking on difficult contracts. We recently completed a steel project that no other business was interested in doing. Some of these contracts may not be the most profitable but they are a challenge, which we enjoy.”
This ‘can do’ attitude has been one of the main elements behind the KR Group’s continual progression, particularly as it has helped it overcome the various obstacles that have been placed in its way over the years.
“It goes without saying that Covid-19 brought its challenges; the economy took a hit and construction slowed down. Aside from that, Brexit and the conflict in Eastern Europe has massively affected steel prices.”
Despite these hurdles the KR Group remains undeterred and is forging ahead with its achieving its future objectives.
“This year we plan to expand our HQ office space and build a rooftop garden for staff. Eventually we’d like to expand even further and set up a second base in Scotland. We now take on jobs all over the UK, so it makes sense to spread out our resources.
“We’d also like to put more resources into developing the next generation of construction workers and are soon to launch our new Cladding Traineeship.
“Finally, we’re continuously striving to be the best employer we can be. We’ve established a Healthy Working Lives Committee who implement changes and initiatives based on employee feedback. Something we’ve recently introduced is Mental Health First Aid training. As of May 2022, KR Group has trained 16% of our workforce as Mental Health First Aiders.”