Mark Farmer, consultant and author of industry report Modernise or die


The big issue

The fall out from the ongoing skills crisis will continue to dominate the headlines. Despite the possibility of a downturn in some sectors, especially commercial and prime residential, relieving some pressure, the industry will continue to struggle. Everyone will also be looking at the implications of Article 50 and the details of the emerging government industrial strategy to understand the implications for the workforce.

The big challenge

The big challenge for the industry is to effectively refocus on modernisation, skills and productivity. This is crucial at a time when industry output is likely to come under pressure and perhaps a greater ™survivalist∫ instinct becomes commonplace. The industry needs to think long-term about investment in training and innovation but the post-Brexit workload volatility will potentially hamper this cause.

The big opportunity

I believe that the single biggest opportunity sits in the residential sector through embracing pre-manufacture-led delivery. The appropriate use of digitally enabled, less labour-intensive techniques supported by appropriate government policy can be the basis of a transformational change in the industry. The likelihood of major disruptors entering this space means 2017 could be a seminal moment in the move to advanced manufacture-led construction.

The big project

I’m not sure which exact project it will be but it will likely involve disruptive technologies and innovative delivery models. I am aware of several major opportunities that might be delivered in ways not seen at scale in the UK before. Industry interest will be focused on disruption next year as the fragility of the market combined with growing client unease at construction delivery performance makes this more of a serious threat to existing practices than at any time before.

The big story

For me its probably the Chinese are coming”. This is a very real prospect. Chinese entry into the UK thus far has been via development vehicles (with mixed success). I suspect you will see moves into the supply chain through either M&A activity with existing UK housebuilders or contractors, or wholly overseas led pre-manufacturing ventures arriving on UK shores.