Offsite not seen as ‘tried and tested’ – Mace boss

2 May 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

Offsite manufacturing is not seen as a “tried and tested solution” by large investors and clients, which is preventing its wider adoption, according to the Mace chief executive.

Mark Reynolds (pictured) was discussing some of the barriers to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) as part of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into the sector yesterday.

He appeared alongside Cast chief executive Mark Farmer, Steve Radley, director of policy at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and Dick Elsy, chief executive of High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Earlier, the Committee also heard from Dr Mark Bew, chair of PCSG, and Mark Enzer, chief technical officer of Mott MacDonald.

Speaking to the Committee about the challenges offsite construction faces, Reynolds said: “It's best to look at how projects are funded.

“Many of the large institutions and funders just want to see tried and tested solutions and if they are not proven then it will be a 'not invented here syndrome’.

“We don't have a process of doing prototyping and as a consequence we learn on the job. It's difficult sometimes to get funding if you are trying to do something new. If you are trying to sell that into clients it is also difficult.

“And then it is about the design process. The traditional RIBA plan of work process does not really accommodate a manufactured construction solution.”

Farmer added that changing procurement models in order to foster greater levels of trust through the supply chain was crucial.

He said: “If we are going to really move forward on offsite manufacturing there is a big piece of work to do around more integrated procurement.

“We need to move to more collaborative procurement so that DFMA is can be promoted properly. There is not enough trust in the industry at the moment.”

And Bew highlighted how the government needed to help foster a new market for offsite construction in order to ensure that there was enough demand to ensure its financial success.

He said: "The key thing we have got to do is to create capacity in the market.

“We currently have a situation where anyone who has a factory to build components carries all of the risk around building those components and if the market doesn't take up the opportunity around procuring those components, he fails.

"Finding ways of maintaining the market around those components so we can get the volumes up to pay for the overheads and then invest back into new components is key.

"There is a whole variety of people along the value chain...need to be aware of the benefits and supportive of the benefits."

Yesterday’s was the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s second evidence session examining offsite construction. The next is due to take place on 8 May.


Developing an offsite manufacturing solution definitely is not an easy task. This though has been done successfully by others ranging from small to very large projects. For example, a major Pharmaceutical Fab plant was constructed using offsite modular construction techniques in fact the modules were actually built in Canada (fully assembled) and then shipped to Ireland.
I personally developed a modular offsite design/manufacturing process for a major power supplier in Canada for distribution and transmission substations.
Perhaps those speaking to the committee should spend time talking to those in the industry that have successfully implemented offsite construction techniques.

Hugh Thomson, 3 May 2018

Offsite is not really new.

Interesting the claim that "... institutions and funders just want to see tried and tested solutions...".

So the current approach to projects delivers high reliability and great ROI for investors does it? I would say "the devil you know" is more appropriate.

The problem with this debate is that whilst offsite is a great approach, it won't by itself make a big difference if other important prerequisites are not addressed.

Ian Heptinstall, 3 May 2018

quite clearly most materials are manufactured offsite. In Oil and Gas its the norm to factory build pretty much every thing above ground.
For the various building types "offsite" manufacture has various matters to address. If we focus on residential building then there is a need for conformity of design ie boxy building to achieve the real benefits of production. Quite clearly this is not ideal. An Architect led solution could work but the factory needs to be able to manufacture appropriately. There are programme benefits in a market where demand is continuous. Unfortunately to many flats and high rise are being built so the market will change up and down. Not good for factory work despite all advantages. Transport to site is costly too. Perhaps on-site offsite solutions could work under large temporary builds for volume housing. is 500 plus units. This could be flat pack timber frame with brick cladding for example.
So on reflection Mace are right in my view. There is a way forward though and it requires throughput guarantees for a company that invests and uses the factory approach. This is not a new debate it has to be said.

Steve Townsend, 3 May 2018

But aren't the 'tried and tested' solutions the very 'solutions' that lead to poor quality, late delivery, cost overruns and lengthy legal disputes?

David McCormick , 3 May 2018

Interesting comments considering I have worked on at least 5 mace sites that have had some form of offsite prefabrication that I ran???? It was tried and tested and seen as a must in Mechanical services. It is tried and tested and offsite Has been done for years

Neil, 4 May 2018

This is more offsite propaganda by those with a vested interest. It will drive more imports and damage British manufacturing. It costs more, delivers less, fails to offer flexibility and adapptabilty and is often combustible. The use of Government subsidies as a direct form of market interference is just wrong!

Mike Leonard, 19 November 2018

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