Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Update

Constructing Excellence

Thanks to those of you who joined us at the Stewart Milne Factory Tour on 29 November.  We gained significant insight into how the timber frame sector has been approaching Offsite manufacturing and there is a significant amount of learning.

Key Learning Points

  • Standardisation – key to delivering cost and quality has been the move to standardisation.  In order to apply advanced manufacturing philosophy and associated advantages Stewart Milne have worked closely with clients to standardise across different house types. This provides significant savings and allows the factory to operate at greater efficiency.
  • It’s not all modular – it is important to remember that Offsite and MMC is not just about modular.  Modular has many benefits but manufacturing based approaches such as timber frame are delivering the benefits of offsite.
  • Digital – Stewart Milne are investing in digital capacity.  Their key market, housing, has significant potential to take advantage of BIM, given the repeatability of projects and standard house types.
  • Collaboration – Stewart Milne are working closely with key supply chain partners to add value for customers.  For example integrating windows into their panels can reduce deliveries to site, reduce requirements for working at height, speed up delivery and deliver increased value for clients.  Stewart Milne are working with partners who bring their own expertise to work alongside their own expertise in timber frame systems.
  • Collaboration II – Sector leadership is critical.  Stewart Milne are working with other timber frame providers on frameworks, where Stewart Milne have done the design work, but enabled framework partners to use the drawings.  This platform-based approach provides the client with surety and flexibility with regard to supply.
  • Procurement – private-sector procurement was found to be less administratively burdensome, quicker and provided greater certainty than public sector contracts.

Response to IPA call for evidence on a new approach to building

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority is launching a call for evidence on a new approach to building.  See

The plan is:

    • Use the interaction at our conference on 12 December to get wider evidence
    • Hold a workshop on 10 January hosted by Pinsent Masons to work through the questions
    • Draft available 25 January – 1 February
    • Final version 8 February

Pinsent Masons have kindly agreed to host the workshop on 10 January, please let me know if you would like to participate by emailing [email protected].  If you do wish to participate we want to maximise the time available so we would like you to have gone through the following questions within your own organisations:


Q1: How can the government best encourage the adoption and implementation of this approach in its capital programmes?

Q2: Within your organisation or sector what changes are needed, including in relation to technologies, skills and commercial models, for this approach to succeed?

Q3: How should government engage with industry to make sure this approach succeeds?

Q4: How can the benefits of this approach best be measured?

Q5: What risks and costs (including hidden and associated costs) would this approach create for your organisation or sector?

Q6: How can this approach best be used to support the economy on a local and a national level?

Technical and commercial

Q7: How would current contracting models and building requirements need to change, in order to best facilitate procurement from a product platform?

Q8: What unique requirements, including security, do different government departments currently specify that could (not) be rationalised or simplified?

Q9: How and by whom should product, process and interoperability standards be set, validated and maintained over time?

Q10: What should the balance be between the core Intellectual Property (IP) which is retained and available to companies in the sector, and the proprietary IP that should be owned by individual firms?

Q11: Are there any other issues that you believe need to be considered if this approach is to be successfully implemented?

Future Activities

We agreed to do a visit to the Offsite project of the year – the A14 and look at how we produce an output about this and all of the other Offsite finalists in our 2018 awards.  The group is also keen to visit an automotive factory, potentially JLR.