The CBI published a report that paints a picture of our industry that is, at the same time, both optimistic and frustrating.
On the upside, the report by the CBI and Oxford Economics highlights the potential for sustained productivity growth. This could achieve a £30bn increase in output with no additional costs by the end of the next decade.
What stands in the way of achieving this goal? It’s the familiar story: low margins; inequitable approaches to apportioning risk; and construction methods prone to cost and timing overruns which rely heavily on scarce manual skills. Little surprise that contractors and supply chains drag their feet when it comes to innovation and investment when the risks seem so high and the margins so low.
Breaking the Cycle of Negativity
There is, of course, a way out of the negative cycle. And, in reality, we all know what it is. The answer is to shift the focus of activity away from the construction site and into a modern manufacturing facility.
On project after project, Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) have proven that they improve quality and productivity and significantly reduce project risks. Take quality, cost and timing risks out of the equation and clients, contractors and supply chains can spend less energy working out how to offload those risks. They are free to explore innovative solutions that make projects more viable for everyone.
The risks are not just financial. The safety record of the construction sector is not something we can take pride in. Risks will always be hard to manage when you have large numbers of people, plant and vehicle movements on a construction site. As well as causing avoidable harm, a major safety incident will also carry a reputational and possibly a financial or legal penalty.
A Controllable Environment
In a factory there is a standard work environment. Health and safety risks can be evaluated and eliminated. Additional risk factors such as weather conditions don’t come into it and MMC solutions such as also reduce the need for working at height.
Similar arguments apply to environmental risks. A modern production facility is a better place to implement effective waste and environmental control processes than a construction site that’s open to the elements. The design-led System also minimises the waste that is produced in the first place.
The big step forward needed is a simple one. It’s to transform thinking around MMC solutions – such as – so that they are the preferred or ‘assumed’ building method, rather than being seen as a novel alternative.
The question boils down to something quite simple: do clients and contractors want to remain in a cycle of high risk, low margins and low productivity, or take advantage of methods that are proven to be the route to a more optimistic future?