Without this, we will never entirely realise the full potential for maximum productivity

Gerald Morgan Wilson James BW 2018

Logistics is not “sexy” – it is seldom the element of work that receives top billing or the limelight. However, logistics is the area where small changes in your planning can add up to make significant differences. After all, your project can only progress as fast as logistics will allow it.

One of the most dramatic examples is still very much in its infancy, but is the most likely to change the industry permanently. Of course, I am talking about offsite manufacturing, or OSM to those in the know.

With the OSM concept, there are some very tangible advantages in productivity and some extremely persuasive numbers to back the venture. Current estimates profess that its implementation can reduce costs by 45%, save 65% on time and result in 75% fewer defects. We are still working to understand just how radically the industry is going to change as the robots and automation take over.

Against the backdrop of an industry where a 2% profit margin is seen as successful, this is surely the news we have been waiting for. No longer will the banks and carmakers leave us behind in their trailblazing use of modern methods of working to improve productivity – because the construction industry has struck cloud based gold.

However, there are some very real physical logistical challenges to that the industry must get to grips with now. As we migrate traditional on-site skills to a more factory environment – be it in a modern flying factory set up locally for a specific project or in a more permanent setting – we are facing different sets of challenges. For instance, just how much can be preassembled before transporting to site? Where are the new pinch points in the production line? What are the challenges of moving larger, more intricate building components the last mile and to the workface?

Fortunately our industry is not the first to face these challenges and a great deal can be learned from the likes of Amazon who have made an absolute fortune from getting their logistics right (literally one click and six hours later you have your item, imagine that!).

Organising the construction ecosystem is our challenge. In order to properly realise all the huge productivity gains to be had from the factory environment, we have to consider each point in the assembly process from material input and product output to the final positioning on-site. Without this, we will never entirely realise the full potential for maximum productivity.

Gerald Morgan is pre-construction director at Wilson James