Luke Osborne, Electrical Contractors’ Association energy and emerging technologies solutions adviser, discusses a recent survey of electrotechnical and engineering services firms looking at their engagement with offsite manufacturing
Offsite construction is fast becoming a key mechanism for delivering projects of all sizes.
By “offsite”, we mean the planning, design, fabrication and assembly of building elements at a location other than their final installed location, to support the rapid and efficient construction of a project. It is sometimes also referred to as “offsite manufacturing”.
An ECA survey of businesses in the electrotechnical and engineering services industry has revealed that, as well as speed and efficiency, offsite construction can offer a range of other benefits to industry and society.
Broadly, these can include improved health and safety outcomes, increased productivity, a smaller carbon footprint and reduced operational costs.
The pros and cons
The sector survey was held in partnership with CIBSE and SELECT to establish the extent to which the sector is engaged with offsite manufacturing and the future opportunities which may exist in the industry.
Almost two-thirds (61%) of survey respondents reported increased productivity, and nearly one in two (47%) reported enhanced employee safety. More than half saw improved quality of work (57%), reduced operational costs (59%) and less project downtime (55%).
Many respondents (43%) also experienced a reduction in their carbon footprint – an increasingly important performance indicator for UK businesses in light of the government’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, the biggest barriers to carrying out offsite manufacturing were identified as a lack of suitably skilled staff and a high level of ongoing investment.
Despite these barriers, the vast majority (81%) of businesses agreed that offsite manufacturing will offer them new commercial opportunities in the future.
Significantly, 42% of larger businesses (those with turnover of £5m-plus) said that they would be using offsite construction within five years, in part due to requirements from their buyers.
The big picture
Many early adopters who have embraced this way of working are already reaping some of the benefits above, and the UK has developed the Construction Innovation Hub and is actively funding innovative developments in the field.
ECA will continue to track progress in our sector towards offsite manufacturing and provide regular updates on the state-of-play in this increasingly important area.
Energy and emerging technologies solutions adviser
Electrical Contractors’ Association
Tel: +44 (0)20 7313 4800