Are We Modernising, Or Dying?

Twelve months ago the Farmer Report urged the construction industry to ‘Modernise or Die.’ A year on, where are we?

A sector as large and complex as construction doesn’t find rapid change easy. And when the change also involves government agencies, industry bodies, procurers and education providers it becomes a very large supertanker to turn around.

Even so, many in the industry would like to have seen more concrete progress towards the high-skills high-productivity sector we need. Reform of the CITB has begun but the pace needs to pick up. Training and qualifications are still a long way from what’s needed to support a digitally enabled construction sector.

We fully support the CITB, as we can’t achieve what’s needed without nationwide coordination. But the refocusing and restructuring needs to be concluded so we can address the bigger challenges. The skills crisis is real, present and tightening.

Procurement

Ultimately, change will be driven by procurement. The presumption in favour of offsite in publicly funded projects is welcome but still needs to filter through into the expertise and models of those doing the procurement.

Also welcome is the government commitment to a spend £25bn on house building. And the Housing White Paper also sets out a long-term strategy aimed at helping the industry to invest in new capacity and innovative methods.

Innovation

Innovation is still one of the big challenges across the industry. The recent ‘progress report’ from the Construction Leadership Council talks about understanding priorities and removing barriers, and a shared innovation programme. It also talks about championing innovative approaches and smarter construction methods.

This is where it’s easy to become a bit frustrated. We have the innovative (and proven) techniques. We also have a fully managed supply chain, with in-house design, manufacturing and installation skills to guarantee delivery and quality. What we don’t yet have are procurement models and decisions that place sufficient weight on these factors.

Longer term strategic issues take time to resolve. But perhaps in the meantime we should also simply consider what is already shown to work and add more flexibility into the system- and do more of it.

For more information on offsite as a smarter construction method, and how offsite can simplify construction without compromise, click here.