Procuring for MMC: CE Procurement & Offsite Group Joint Meeting

Constructing Excellence

In February, the Constructing Excellence Procurement and Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Groups held a joint meeting to explore the complex issue of procuring for MMC. Jez Sweetland from Bristol Housing Festival provided an overview of the work they have been doing to drive the adoption of MMC in Bristol through aggregating demand and building an Ecosystem around Bristol.  Phil Henry from Genuit Group gave insight into how manufacturers like them are approaching the Offsite Market.  

We’ve summarised some of the discussions below. 

Client perspective 

  • Route to MMC – Clients often struggle to find a route to MMC. Overstretched local authorities often do not have the bandwidth to think strategically as the pressures of service delivery can take precedence. There is willingness to explore possibilities at the start of a project but these often halt when it comes to implementation. A procurement wrapper around MMC would be useful to unlocking this.   
  • Benefits – Procurement often comes later in the process and wider benefits are not looked at during that process. Benefits don’t always accrue to those paying for them.  The Value Toolkit could help with this. In some instances the case is clear for example Cornwall Council have used MMC extensively to provide move-on accommodation for homeless. 
  • Dynamic Market – The MMC market is dynamic with new providers and approaches emerging.  This makes MMC frameworks difficult to implement. The South West Procurement Alliance have launched a Low Carbon Offsite Housing Construction Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) to help clients procure in a fluid marketplace. 
  • Risk – The potential for a single point of failure and the associated risks and insurance impacts. Reliance on a single supplier is a risk. If something goes wrong such as a supplier going out of business without interoperability it is difficult to pivot to a different supplier.  This can be easier to manage on panelised projects, rather than full modular. 
  • Scale – it is relatively easy to use MMC on smaller schemes, however for larger schemes clients need to work with well-capitalised MMC providers to give confidence that they will be able to complete the entire scheme.  This is a challenge for many MMC providers which are young businesses and are less experienced in legal and risk management.  

Supplier perspective

  • Skills – In response to the long-standing issues around productivity, skilled labour and site access, increased PMV offers an opportunity.  Factory production bring skills local to the factory offering a safer and more appealing working environment.  Plug and play solutions provide the opportunity to use skilled labour more effectively. 
  • Innovation – With greater understanding of end-user requirements and how products are used, manufacturers can invest their innovation in areas that add specific value to end-users. 
  • Direct relationships with MMC manufacturers shortens the supply chain, removing intermediaries from the process. 
  • Longer-term relationships allows greater standardisation as more collaboration and understanding allows innovation to be more aligned.   
  • Collaboration – MMC providers are getting their supply chains to collaborate on sub-assemblies and integration of components.  This raises issues around risks and insurances which will need to be gone through.  Validation and certification will be important to overcome this. 
  • Design – There is a need for designers to be engaged and informed because quite often traditional designs don’t work in a factory environment.  Early engagement allows manufacturers to bring their innovation and skills more effectively to projects.  Digital design integration allows the factory models to integrate directly into digital models and building designs 

Infrastructure Perspective 

There was a brief discussion around infrastructure and how major projects, such as HS2 have the ability to and are leading on procuring MMC.   For example, the 1000 factory produced segments for the Colne Valley Viaduct, where segment is unique. The project demonstrates how MMC can standardise the method to deliver bespoke components.  Early engagement with innovators has been critical to unlocking this.  

The session concluded that this is difficult and complex.  But with trail blazers like Bristol Housing Festival, South West Procurement Alliance, Genuit Group and all of our CE members willing to share and support others on their journey we will make that change. 

The next meeting of the Procurement Group is on 23 March when we will be looking at Building Safety and Procurement and the Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Group will be visiting the BRE Innovation Park in spring to see great examples of MMC from Collida and Seismic.