Building for the future
With an annual turnover that exceeds NOK 5 billion, and vast experience in its field AF Gruppen is amongst Norway’s leading specialist civil engineering and construction companies.
The company, which has operations in both Norway and Sweden, provides high-quality civil engineering, construction and specialist contractor services, and property development to customers in a number of industries, including the energy sector. The business prides itself on its customer service, and its willingness to undertake the most demanding assignments.
AF Group was originally formed in 1985 with the aim of helping its clients to succeed in their business by supplying a broad range of solutions and services tailored to suit their individual needs. Since its inception the company has experienced considerable growth and expansion, and has consequently undertaken many significant projects throughout the industry. In the last decade the company has grown eight times through organic growth and acquisitions, and today serves a vast range of customers, ranging from small housing developers through to international oil companies.
“AF Group initially started 22 years ago, and for the first ten years concentrated predominantly on civil engineering very successfully,” explains Per Aftreth, CEO of AF Group. “As the company expanded we entered the house building sector, with a long-term view to be successful in that market. More recently, we have continued to expand and enter new market sectors, including decommissioning, which has been a successful area for us since early 2000.”
The company’s core values are based around providing reliable, high-quality services, thoroughness and hard work, persistence in achieving profitable growth and management through presence and involvement. Additionally, AF Group prides itself on continuously focusing on close co-operation and long-term relationships with its customers and suppliers to achieve the best possible success. Central to the company’s mission is its willingness, and ability to undertake the most demanding, and technologically complex tasks.
Furthermore, Per believes that the company’s key strength lies in the experience and knowledge of its employees, and its strong organisational ethic: “When you create a new company you have to make some important choices, the first of these being the people that will help you to move the business forward. It is essential that you choose the right people for the development of a company, and I believe that we have excellent personnel who have the same perceptions of where the business should be.
“These fundamental values are essential to the core aims of our company,” he continues. “Throughout our history we have maintained a strong organisation and structure, and we have placed the highest emphasis on our reliability, which is the most important concern to us. Because of this, despite being a small organisation we have been able to compete with the largest companies in Europe.”
AF Gruppen co-operates extremely closely with its clients, and has completed extensive work to adapt to its customers’ future requirements in order to remain a long-term, cooperative partner. “Our main customers are predominantly the major international oil companies, such as ConocoPhillips, Statoil and Hydro,” Per explains. “Being a relatively new company, we have learned a great deal through co-operation with our customers, particularly in terms of HSE best practices.”
During early 2006, AF Group was divided into three distinct business areas, which cover a broad range of services. The three areas are construction, services, and property development, meaning that the company is involved in a vast spectrum of operations, including complex civil engineering projects, building, decommissioning and demolition, and energy efficiency operations.
The company’s construction division is its largest business area, and covers all of AF Group’s civil engineering and building operations, for both private and public customers. Operations are divided between five separate business units based in Norway and Sweden. The company undertakes a range of complex, and demanding civil engineering projects for the energy sector, including contracts for oil and gas installations and process facilities. In recent years, AF Group has consolidated its position as a market leading civil engineering company in Norway, and is regularly selected for the most demanding, prestigious projects.
For example, it was chosen to undertake all of the construction work on Snohvit, Norway’s first oil and gas development in the Barents Sea. Snohvit’s operations will include transporting gas from the seabed, and around 140 kilometres from Hammerfest to a state-of-the-art gas processing plant at Melkoya. AF Group managed all of the construction work at the Melkoya site, apart from the administration buildings and the tank installations.
“We have successfully carried out all of the civil engineering on Snohvit, in a project that has been worth around four million NOK,” says Per.
“We started with site preparation work in the Barents Sea, which has particularly high waves that affected the operations and meant that we had to work in a specialised way. We constructed a guard of large boulders around the island, which was a speciality project of our company, and also built tunnels for the cooling water systems and completed civil engineering for concrete structures and pipes.”
AF Group’s work at Snohvit, which was largely completed during 2006, was divided into a number of separate contracts. Initially, the company completed site preparation, early construction of dock and seawater tunnels, and pier and jetty building work. Following this, it completed ground and concrete work, including free-standing buildings and foundations, pipe racks and ducts for gas pipes, and final work such as roads and landscaping. The company’s experience in demanding civil engineering operations enabled it to overcome the various challenges presented at Snohvit, including the volume and intensity of the work and the harsh arctic environment.
AF Group’s services business area has operations in Norway and Sweden, and carries out services associated with civil engineering, offshore operations and building. Focused on environmentally friendly solutions, its work includes the demolition and decommissioning of oil installations and associated buildings, and the recycling of existing structures.
“Demolition and decommissioning is a relatively new area for us, and we have been involved in offshore demolition and recycling” says Per. “We are doing the decommissioning of the Ekofisk platform, in co-operation with ConocoPhillips. We have used a very different approach to many of the competitors, who wanted to take large pieces of the platform and tank onshore and carry out the decommissioning and recycling there. Instead, we carried out the majority of the task on-site, which we believe is a speciality method.”
The decommissioning of the Eskovik tank was the company’s first offshore decommissioning contract, and it beat off stiff competition from other major international offshore contractors to be awarded the job. The tank, which is part of the Eskovik field that is currently operated by ConocoPhillips, is a concrete structure that was initially constructed in Stavanger and towed out to the Eskovik field. The project, which is due to finish in December 2007, will include the decommissioning and recycling of around 25,000 tonnes of steel.
Dismantling and recycling operations in the North Sea are governed by the strictest HSE regulations, and as such AF Group placed the highest priority on planning and implementation of safe working practices. The company initiated a planning organisation, created separate positions for lifting and crane experts, and carried out thorough risk analyses on all parts of the project. Furthermore, before the project started, all employees were required to take part in a four to six week training programme, which included 30 different types of course.
Together with decommissioning and recycling operations, AF Group carries out air conditioning recycling: “In this sector we are particularly active in the North Sea area of operations, predominantly carrying out refurbishment and recycling of old installations, rather than constructing new ones,” says Per.
Per elaborates on the importance of health and safety throughout the company’s operations: “Since the business started we have learned a great deal about HSE through close co-operation with our customers, and carrying out major projects for the oil and gas industry, and I believe that this is why we are one of the outstanding companies in the world in terms of HSE.”
In a thriving market, AF Group continues to have many competitive advantages, including reliability, thoroughness, hard work, presence and involvement, and a strong organisational structure. Over the coming years the company will continue to maintain these core values, whilst actively searching for new market opportunities and developing innovative, smarter methods of operating.
Reflecting on the current market conditions, Per is confident that AF Group can achieve further success in the future: “The market in Norway is very good at present and the building and civil engineering industry looks strong for the next two or three years. To remain successful you must have growth in the top and bottom lines, and a very strong foundation regarding core values. We have been experiencing good growth for a number of years, and we have a very strong structure within the business, so I am confident that AF Gruppen will have a very healthy future,” he concludes