The Holy Trinity of homebuilding: How digital, lean and offsite come together

by | Nov 2, 2022

When you strip away jargon such as ‘digitalisation’ and ‘MMC’ what companies really want to achieve is projects that are more predictable, on programme and profitable. Having spoken to 90+ companies in the residential supply chain over the past year we can see that there are numerous constraints to delivering these projects.

Time and again labour is cited as a critical factor. While the simple answer to onsite labour shortages may seem to be increasing offsite production, what we are beginning to learn is that offsite in itself is not a panacea. Instead, companies that invest in improving their processes both on site and back office are better placed to take advantage of the potential efficiencies from adopting offsite systems.

We have worked with General Contractors and Homebuilders to help them examine their current processes and workflow to identify where the real headaches are – where is management time being spent? The next step is to see if there are straightforward systems or digital automation that could be implemented to free up some of this time for more strategic activities.

These types of systems that can give greater visibility of project progress become even more important with the implementation of offsite. They give greater confidence to commit to schedules and ensure that the right people, materials and equipment are in the right place at the right time.

Over the past 12 months we have also seen an uptick in interest in the Last Planner system. While it is often categorised under a lean heading it is really a management style used in project planning. It places a heavy emphasis on collaboration and communication between sub contractors to ensure that problems are identified and resolved early.

To get the real benefit of offsite this type of approach is essential and is what can accelerate the programme by reducing the amount time subcontractors spend waiting in turn.

As part of the Housing for All plan Enterprise Ireland has been asked to work with the industry to increase productivity and innovation. Enterprise Ireland launched a suite of grant aid supports earlier this year to help companies engage with lean, digital and innovation.

These start from simple introductory offers which help a business plan out their journey through to more elaborate, sophisticated programmes of support. An example of this could be undertaking a Digital Discovery Grant to incentivise and support companies to develop a strategic plan on how they could improve their processes through the use of digital systems.

This typical involves seven days of external consultancy over a number of weeks of which Enterprise Ireland can fund 80 per cent of costs. Part of the output from this activity could be a recommendation to undertake a Digital Process Innovation project to support the implementation of a new way of working. These projects can be up to €300k in expenditure of which Enterprise Ireland can support at a maximum of 50 per cent.

For more information on these and other offers please visit www.enterprise-ireland.com/builttoinnovate

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