Sep 29, 2017

If we are to revolutionise housebuilding, we all have to commit to changing how we operate

Following a recent talk at this year’s British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Conference, Stewart Dalgarno is calling on the industry to act and increase its manufacturing integration across the supply chain.

At this year's BWF Conference I spoke about the importance of the supply chain becoming more integrated so that housebuilding in the UK can become more dynamic, successful and timely – without ever compromising on quality or standards.

The advantages of using offsite manufacture of timber systems in residential or commercial projects are vast and clear, and offsite is helping to solve many of the current challenges within the construction industry. However, the entire supply chain must become more integrated and committed to revolutionise how we build new homes.

Timber is both sustainable and low carbon, and can be engineered with such advanced precision that it allows unparalleled accuracy in meeting design intentions. Design processes themselves are also now changing through the innovative use of 3D interactive technology, augmented reality and initiatives such as our first commercially-available BIM library.

Engaging with our supply chain, and working together towards genuine integration, will benefit all parties. Cost efficiencies can be achieved without compromising on the quality of homes, and housebuilding projects can be delivered with increased safety profiles, lower costs, improved sustainability and more accurate timescales.

Traditional supply chains typically rely on at least 12 separate components; ranging from designers and installers to window installers, scaffolding and multiple hauliers. Integrating this will mean the offsite timber systems and windows can all be designed, manufactured, delivered and installed as a single effective process.

If timber system manufacturer and supplier factories are all co-located on the same site, design, delivery and production processes can be more closely aligned, waste removed, leading to lower costs and reduced lead times

It’s no exaggeration that increased integration has the potential to transform the construction industry. However, our industry is traditionally slow to evolve and this thinking is nothing new. Vertical supply chain integration is already extensively tried and tested in a number of other industries – with car manufacturing being a prime example.

Although it’s an ambitious plan, it is absolutely achievable. However, the potential for success is very much dependent on suppliers and housebuilders proactively working together and forging long-term commitments to this integrated approach, underpinning investment and working together to drive forward cultural and process change.

It will take a strategic commitment, meaningful collaboration, the pooling of resources, the sharing of research and full engagement from all parties at the start. However, in return, an integrated supply chain has the potential to reduce costs, add value and – most importantly – radically transform how we deliver sustainable new homes to scale and at pace.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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