Offsite: Why logistics management is key

3 September 2018 | By Garry Sullivan

If construction is serious about using offsite manufacturing, the industry needs to learn how to use logistics, writes Garry Sullivan.

Garry Sullivan

Construction has banged on about improving productivity for as long as there has been a skills shortage. The industry has flirted with offsite manufacturing but has no serious relationship – yet.

I am an advocate of ‘offsite’ as long as it is integrated with sub assembly and of course logistics. Making things in factories has many redeeming features, as does using standard components and the ‘platform-based approach’.

But ‘offsite’ in all its guises will not solve the productivity issue if it doesn’t arrive at site on time and in good order with fitters standing ready to receive and fix in one seamless operation. To gather raw materials, ship them, manufacture them, and then move them to coalface is easier said than done, even planning the last mile requires logistics resource, as no plan survives contact with the UK’s road network.

Offsite does simplify the logistics chain. It naturally consolidates components, it reduces the support footprint of onsite accommodation and associated facilities, production schedules provide transparency that logisticians dream of and of course they buy the components they need, not 15% more in case they get lost or damaged.

However, logisticians need to be involved in the thinking at the beginning of the project process, not the end – and they need to sit alongside designers, production engineers and assembly teams.

Does the construction industry just want to buy a few things made in factories to tick a few boxes – or does it really want to grips with productivity?

Gary Sullivan OBE is chairman of construction logistics contractor Wilson James.


CITB's 2017 research, 'Faster, smarter, more efficient: building skills for offsite construction', identifies logistics as one of the six key functions within offsite and discusses the skills and training requirements in considerable detail.

Alan Tanner, Research Analyst, 3 September 2018

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