Contractors and specialists have a role to play in spreading innovation and collaboration through the supply chain

Stuart Whiting

The Farmer Review makes interesting reading for the construction industry. As a specialist contractor, we have a unique position in the supply chain; we work closely with main contractors and developers, building product manufacturers and end clients to deliver some of the UK’s most complex and challenging projects.

One area looked at in the report emphasises the need to better utilise modern methods of construction and off-site fabrication. This is a view we share - having championed and invested in adaptable industrialisation, which has had a direct impact on the successful and profitable delivery of many of our contracts.

This is because the prefabrication of unitised and panelised building components in an industrialised factory environment leads to an increased level of consistency and the reduction of any defects.

When a unique product or bespoke design is required the ability to construct a mock-up, test products and methods off-site can be crucial. It enables companies to employ trainees or apprentices in roles within factories or warehouses – up-skilling the industry and giving teams the chance to learn installation works off-site.

The threads of innovation and collaboration are there but simply not on the scale so desperately needed to pull the industry together

The report goes on to suggest a drastic, if all else fails option: a levy on all construction clients, which can be avoided by supporting industry modernisation. Rewarding clients who are commissioning pre-manufactured construction, procuring in a collaborative fashion or using BIM could well be the best, and most effective means of making a real and lasting change. To drive real action – widespread change and improvement across all stakeholders is necessary.

We as a company are proud to work with many like-minded clients and have seen a dramatic increase in the number opting to utilise our off-site manufacturing capabilities and factories, and the type of work being undertaken is setting new benchmarks for the construction industry.

This is why Prater recently joined the Offsite Management School, an initiative of leading contractors and specialists committed to helping their supply chains develop to meet the challenges we face.

The Farmer Review does not make for comfortable reading – but that’s its very point and purpose. Many of the facts we know, but by simply having them stacked up, presented in black and white and with no holds barred it will hopefully instigate action.

The threads of innovation and collaboration are there but simply not on the scale so desperately needed to pull the industry together. What we need now is cohesion - to get better at sharing knowledge and best practice, and to achieve a cultural change where off-site manufacturing is considered the norm to take our industry into a positive future.

Stuart Whiting is technical director for Prater