Like many others during lockdown, recently, I dusted off my toolbox to conquer a mountain of boxes that had been sourced from everyone’s favourite Swedish furniture and meatballs purveyor (a winning if not immediately obvious combo). After several hours, I was relatively proud of my achievements, having transformed said boxes into several pieces of finished furniture, fit to grace any room.
On reflection of my achievement, I ask myself ‘the benefits of modern manufacturing are rife in everyday life – so why do we accept their absence within the construction industry?’
How can construction learn from Ikea?
The route I used to procure off the shelf furniture points the way towards what a more modern construction journey could and should look like.
I was able to select and then purchase products from a digital catalogue; understand the cost impact of my product choices in real time; track delivery; and assemble a finished product using easy to follow instructions (mostly!) from a set of components which, although standard in and of themselves, worked together to create a platform solution allowing the creation of products of varying forms, shapes and sizes.
As an example, the humble cam lock holding my bookcase together was also used in my storage unit, wardrobe, and bed. The same component being used to benefit multiple solutions.
Upon reflection, it does highlight that we have become so accustomed to the benefits that the modern manufacturing approach brings to almost every other walk of life, it makes you wonder why we continue to tolerate their absence when it comes to our own industry.
Imagine walking into a car showroom, choosing your car and selecting your options, only to be told by the dealer that they are unable to confirm the price until they have designed and procured it! – Yet this happens every time a new building is commissioned.
The opportunity for better
Times are changing. The publication of the Construction Playbook represents a culmination of thought leadership that can be traced back through such seminal reports as Modernise or Die, Constructing the Team and Rethinking Construction. Its 14 key policies providing a strong foundation to ensure that, as an industry, we genuinely build back better.
Ikea – and pretty much every other large-scale retailer – adopt strategic approaches to procurement to aggregate demand. Such approaches can also provide greater visibility of pipeline and therefore investment confidence amongst suppliers, which could help remove one of the final remaining barriers towards ensuring the MMC and offsite market grows the genuine capacity, to deliver the nation’s school and housebuilding intent.
Our new Collida business recognises, and is founded on, the value that can be generated through ‘product platforms comprising of standardised and interoperable digital components’. Supercharging these through digital innovation, AI-generative design tools, machine learning and automated procurement our intent, is to create a modern construction offer that empower our customers by giving them greater control over a real time, frictionless, holistic experience.
In a similar manner to sitting down and designing your car, or new kitchen, as a consumer, you should be able to make decisions and understand their impact in real time – whether from a capital cost, operation cost, carbon, time, or FM perspective.
This is the journey we all deserve.