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7 things to consider to maximise the value of manufacturing based construction

On 26 March Tata Steel hosted the Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Theme Group at their offices on Millbank.  The theme for the day was how do we engage better with the expertise, knowledge and innovation from the manufacturing sector.  The scene was set by a roundtable discussion including input from Adam Turk (Baxi Commercial), Rob Ewen (Heathrow), Phil Henry (Polypipe) and Susan Hone-Brookes (the MTC).  The key points included:

  • Not just about offsite

Programmes such as the Industrial Strategy Transforming Construction Programme and the Construction Innovation Hub are looking at offsite, onsite and nearsite.  The key driver is around high performance with a need to deliver productionised construction.

Major clients such as Heathrow are using the Project 13 principles to deliver a High Performing Team. They are looking at major savings of circa 30% efficiency savings in productivity terms.  They want to use production-based approaches, for example Heathrow is considering implementing a sliding factory to build the 1.5 kilometre Pier 6.  This will effectively be delivered as a building in a box to optimise logistics and minimise time on site.

  • Not about bashing Tier 1 Contractors and Consultants

Much of the recent discussion in the sector about whether Tier 1s and consultants are in jeopardy or irrelevant is not productive.  The group felt that their will be a clear role for those organisations – however the way they make their money will change in the future.  The key challenge is to overcome inertia and resistance in the sector.

  • Need to engage the whole supply chain

Is offsite delivered through client pull or supplier push – the conclusion was that this very much changes between projects.  Often parts of the supply chain implement offsite badly and that varies across projects.  Sometimes the main contractor is completely committed and sometimes not, sometimes sub-contractors not committed.  Often there remains an expectation that changes can be made last minute in the same way as on traditional projects – this is not the case!

Most projects start out with great intentions, with a lot of thinking done at the earliest stages of projects – in the chaos and panic of delivery a lot of that thinking does not get translated into effective delivery. Projects need strong clients to ensure projects are conceived and planned properly to effectively deliver offsite/manufacturing based approaches.

  • Components delivered differently with different fitting requirements

Existing component manufacturers need to think slightly differently about how they design products.  Products need to be delivered to production lines to be incorporated into modular systems or larger sub-assemblies.  These will be fitted by assemblers rather than skilled plumbers. This provides manufacturers with an opportunity to provide greater value-add re-think their product offer.

  • Intellectual Property & Forms of Contract

How Intellectual Property, warranties and insurances are dealt with in this new way of working is proving to be a tricky issue for many product manufacturers.  This is something for the CE Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Group to explore

  •  Standardisation and Ubiquity

To effectively invest in new ways of working clients and the wider industry need to have surety of supply, standardisation and interoperability of systems.  The average business life for an offsite company is 8 years, therefore clients need to know how this impacts on future projects. The Seismic project is tackling this issue for the Department of Education, where they are creating a demountable frame that enables the delivery of a ubiquitous frame allowing clients and contractors to procure standardised components.

  • Digital Thread

Key to unlocking the benefits of manufacturing based approaches is the digital thread. Effective use of digital technologies at the design, construction and operational stages is critical to unlocking the true value of built assets.

What are we going to do?

The Constructing Excellence Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Group is going to focus on what we as a group can achieve change, bringing together stakeholders from across the supply chain.  The group will meet on 4 June https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/constructing-excellence-members-forum-tickets-58865255564  with the wider Constructing Excellence members to establish how to effectively tackle these issues.

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