Kier predicts contractors will employ ‘offsite managers’

27 August 2019

Kier expects major construction companies to employ specialists to manage offsite manufacturing, as use of factory-assembled components rises on projects.

The contractor made the prediction in a report it has published on the potential impact of offsite growth on the industry.

“In the same vein that the industry has observed the creation of new roles in the digital environment, such as BIM managers, we anticipate the same for offsite manufacturing,” said Kier director Jamie Hillier, who authored the study.

He added: “While the spotlight has typically shone towards the CITB to provide direction on skills, we would encourage the professional bodies – CIOB, ICE, RICS, RIBA – to collaborate to provide structure around role definition, competency and accreditation, in a format aligned to the government’s Construction Sector Deal. 

Kier’s proposed actions to increase offsite uptake

Make it easy

  • Make selecting offsite manufacturing an easier choice for our customers and ourselves.

Make it understood

  • Use the same, simple language.
  • Establish recognised standards, that enable consistency and assurance.

Make it social

  • Raise the status of offsite manufacturing across the industry, showing people that OSM is the norm.
  • Engage and inspire the design teams; they are critical to vision and delivery.

Make it rewarding

  • Reward individuals’ effort, engagement and impact.

Make it a habit

  • Pro-actively support and enable education and awareness of our people, our consultants, the supply chain and our clients.

“We would encourage that any approach whole-heartedly embraces our clients and their professional teams, recognising the pivotal role in setting leadership, direction and management of offsite manufacturing adoption.”

Hillier urged “a shift in focus towards measured outcome; procuring for value rather than lowest cost” and said this will “necessitate a re-education of key stakeholders”.

“We therefore need to make it easy for individuals and organisations to assess their competency, potential skill gaps and the need for training; making it understandable, easily.”

The report, The Choice Factory, examines offsite manufacturing “through the lens of behavioural science”. It is named after behavioural scientist Richard Shotton’s book The Choice Factory, which examines how behavioural biases influence the products people buy. 

Kier’s study says: “The economical and technological benefits of offsite manufacturing have already been widely publicised. What appears more interesting however, is why a rationally beneficial solution, has for too long been irrationally marginalised.

“In responding to the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on offsite manufacturing in 2018, we advocated review of psychological, behavioural and cultural factors, to achieve sustainable change.”

Kier identified five key barriers to offsite uptake:

It said that although offsite has been advocated before, a key difference currently comes from digital technologies, new materials technology, and a shift in build strategy towards operational priorities.

Kier sees its role as a “project integrator”, bringing together a range of offsite components, including volumetric, steel framing systems, engineered timber, precast concrete and prefabricated building services, to deliver bespoke solutions for clients.

The Choice Factory report comes in three parts, the first two of which have been published, with the third due to come out shortly.

Kier’s offsite work has included wide use of precast concrete, on the biomedical research laboratory Project Capella at the University of Cambridge, the redevelopment of Broadmoor Hospital, and its current Wellingborough prison project.


Seems like there could be some duplication between Tender, Procurement and the management of the relevant sub-contractor packages, it seems that the Kier proposal envisages that all works are in-house when that is not the state of the industry today?

Derek Edwards, 2 September 2019

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