The future of factory-based building technology

The offsite manufacturing sector is gaining traction like never before. The challenge now is to get a decent foothold in the traditional construction market and to ensure that manufacturing volumes hit such levels that it is no longer cost competitive to go back to 'conventional' construction methods if the predicted recession happens.

Only by achieving this foothold, of say greater than 15% market share of construction new-build activity, will the UK offsite manufacturing sector be able to maintain a constant position in the industry and not be seen as a passing trend. Present market share figures vary widely and are somewhat dependent upon which market sectors are being analysed, but overall the offsite manufacturing sector has in the region of 8-10% market share, so we have a long way to go to reaching that critical foothold position.

At last the government appears to have made the connection between construction and manufacturing and we are therefore seeing great potential within the 'industrial strategy' for offsite manufactured solutions. There is an old adage about 'taking advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity' and I think this is the mantra that the offsite manufacturing sector should now adopt.

The Japanese understand manufacturing investment, after all they pioneered world-class manufacturing techniques. Sekisui entering the UK offsite sector is a game changer. The time I spent in Japan working with Sekisui, Toyota, Daiwa, was truly inspirational and the volumes they achieve are astonishing. The learnings from Japan will never leave me - it is still the benchmark in my eyes - perhaps this current cycle of offsite manufacturing in the UK will enable me to put more of these learnings into practice.

We don't need to baffle businesses with lean manufacturing jargon or world-class manufacturing terminology to make them improve. We need to demonstrate best practice in other sectors and apply a common-sense approach. We have to convey the dynamic and fast-moving pace of the sector and the excitement that can be engendered when delivering truly ground-breaking technology to construction sites - resulting in a weather-tight structure in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years.

The rewards for building successful offsite manufacturing businesses and delivering quality products and systems to site are incredible. It is time that we shouted louder about the opportunities that exist and make people in other sectors see the real potential that lies in us creating a world-class offsite manufacturing sector in the UK.

Author Darren Richards Managing Director of Cogent Consulting

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