HTA's Brighton Breakfast
We brought together a group of clients, consultants contractors and manufacturers to discuss the opportunities around offsite manufacturing, and how to use the clear opportunity available to increase the use of this technology. After short speeches by Jamie Ratcliff from GLA, Mark Farmer from Cast, Rory Bergin from HTA, Mark Jenkins from Kingspan and Kieran White of Vision Modular Systems the table was opened up for a wider discussion.
Here are the main points arising from the discussion:
- To remove some of the risks, the manufacturer should work to enable themselves to be replaced, as investors don’t want to invest in a product with only one producer. This sounds counterintuitive, but it is important for clients to feel that if the manufacturer has any supply problems or finance problems, the client can still get their building delivered by another supplier. This means that the tendency in the market for manufacturers to work on protecting their IP to the point that only they can deliver their system is counterproductive in the long term. While it will help individual manufacturers to have a short term market advantage, in the long term we need a larger industry capable of delivering less specialised systems. Perhaps In the long term there is a need for more ‘open source’ offsite manufacturing systems? In the short term there is a need for clients to know that they can procure the building through other means if their initial choice of manufacture goes into administration, this could be dealt with by preparing a technology licensing agreement before the project starts.
- Starting the discussion early: It is important that clients get behind the idea of offsite manufacturing from the beginning and to provide vision and direction to their procurement teams. Procuring buildings through the same methodology that has been used in the recent past will result in the same types of construction with the same results.
- Senior people in the industry will need to evangelise the idea among their businesses when they have a clear understanding of the benefits and why those benefits are relevant to their organisation.
- Manufacturers should be open about their capacity and have a clear plan for expansion to give clients confidence that their building will be delivered even if other orders are placed and that the factory can cope with an increase in business, or licensing to other manufacturers if expansion is not possible.
- Consultants working for clients could share experience of preparing due diligence, so that many people don’t need to be paid to redo the same thing over and over again.
- Designers should think more about designing for manufacturing during the early stages of design. They need to understand the technical capability of each type of manufacturing product and the impact that each system could have on the design of the building.To get the best out of any system, the building should be designed with a clear idea of the construction methodology, otherwise the design will be so flexible as to be inappropriate for any particular system and will contain built-in inefficiencies.