Utility Week

Utility Week 18th April

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22 | 18th - 24th April 2014 | UtilitY WEEK Operations & Assets Sponsored market view T hirty-three per cent less cost, 50 per cent faster delivery, 50 per cent more sustainable and 50 per cent more exportable. There is no client in the land I know – public or private – who wouldn't want all those things." It was hard to disa- gree with Richard Ogden, director of Build Offsite, when he laid out these benefits of off- site manufacture at a panel session hosted by Utility Week in association with Costain at the Sustainability Live exhibition in Birming- ham earlier this month. Ogden joined Costain directors Matthew Crabtree, Steve Fozzard and Colin Reynell in a session at the Sustainability Live exhi- bition chaired by Utility Week editor Ellen Bennett. The panel laid out the philosophy of "factory thinking" – a new approach to water assets, which they believe will deliver the efficiencies required by the tough new regime being implement for the next asset management plan period (AMP6) as well as speed up delivery and improve quality and safety. It sounds like a no-brainer, but as the panel discussed, the construction indus- try can be slow to change – and with AMP6 about to begin, time is of the essence. First up, the panel was keen to tackle preconceptions about offsite manufacture. Ogden said: "A lot of people think that offsite is about toilet pods on the back of a lorry. But at the other end of the spectrum, there's the cheesegrater on Leadenhall Street. That's being manufactured off Junction 31 on the M1 and delivered in 70 and 80 tonne loads every evening. Some people can't get their heads around that – they think it's not possible." "Off-site manufacture is a series of com- ponents that fit together with 'right first time' quality – manufactured components, not cra-made on site. That can go to a total building, or a hybrid, and includes every- thing, from the base of the foundation right up to where the roof touches the sky. You wouldn't build a car in a field so why build a building in one?" Reynell talked about his experience work- ing for a major car manufacturer, where factory thinking and "productisation" is standard. "A lot of what we do in the water sector is what I'd call 'tidying the shed'. The real advantage here is to see how we can productise our thinking, then we can decide how to do the manufacturing, in a factory or simply on site." The panel emphasised the improved quality that can be achieved with off-site manufacture. Steve Fozzard remarked how "defects" is an accepted term in the con- struction of water assets. He challenged this mentality, saying: "Your clients and your customers should not be your quality control department. We find off-site manufacture gives us the ability to plug and play – test a solution and deliver it and repeat it many, many times. Once you can do that, there are no surprises for your client. Once you turn that on, it works as intended." Fozzard added that water companies also talk about "asset standards" – and chal- lenged them to turn this around, and talk about "standard assets". "That's more posi- tive. It means the client has got a product they can identify as suitable for a certain application, and then get real smart at deliv- ering it much quicker." In an ideal world, said Fozzard, water companies could even co-operate to develop shared standard assets, which would enable them to cut manufacturing costs and time exponentially. "There are a limited number of assets they want building, so why should every one be different? It simply doesn't make sense." Given the many benefits of off-site manu- facturing, the obvious question is, why isn't it being adopted more in the water sector? Ogden highlighted how slow the construc- tion industry can be to change, noting anecdotally that he had recently seen a Seize the moment At a Sustainability Live conference panel, Costain said water companies could save a lot of money by manufacturing off-site in a 'virtual factory', as leading edge construction projects already do. " The big numbers: off-siTe • Annual worth in UK £2-6bn • Percentage of total UK construction market 6% • Annual growth 25% Source: Build Offsite Live debate Q: How can the supply chain encourage accelerated change in standards? A: Matthew Crabtree: "Our customers encourage that challenge. We need to be able to demonstrate why we want to do something different – that it's not just different for differ- ent's sake. We see increasingly more alignment in organisations between the procurement side and the people who will operate the asset. We've all had the challenge historically of getting the people who are going to operate the thing into the game early enough; we are now seeing better alignment and that's to be applauded and encouraged." Q: How would standard assets affect innovation? Could they stifle it? A: Colin Reynell: "The car industry is about 100 years old; the construction industry is thousands of years old. Anyone here drive a Prius? I'd say that's quite revolutionary; that's all completely productised. The smart thinking doesn't say don't innovate; it says innovate, and then use it many times." A: Richard Ogden: "Trial it, using building information modeling (BIM). That's what it's there for. It's a model that the whole team can use." Q: In the car market, innovation is driven by market forces. How can that function be repli- cated by the regulator in a monopoly market? A: Colin Reynell: "There is an intrinsic competitiveness in the water sector between clients – they want to be smarter than the one next door. We have to plug in to that a bit, we have to help our clients be the winner. The regulator's helping us, we're at the tipping point and we need to be the catalyst to help that happen."

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