The Manufacturing Mindset – What is it and Why does it Matter?

The need to adopt a manufacturing mindset in construction is widely talked about. What does this mean, why does it matter and how do you go about achieving it?

At the heart of the discussion is a shift in thinking: schools, healthcare facilities, homes and other assets go from being things that are ‘built’, to things that are manufactured. A very persuasive reason for doing this is productivity.

Factories (or ‘manufactories’, as they were originally called) multiplied once people realised how much more productive it was to concentrate activities in one large location equipped with modern technology, compared to outwork conducted in thousands of cottages spread across the land. This approach also opened the way to faster innovation and product development.

Modern manufacturing techniques also lead to consistency. It would be a bit strange if your car only achieved 80% of the specified fuel economy because the person who built it ‘did a few things differently that day’.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Industrialisation wasn’t universally welcomed. There were plenty of Luddites who wanted to halt progress in its tracks. Some resistance was just the natural tendency to prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar and not knowing how to adapt.

And maybe that’s where we are with manufactured construction. We know how to do it. And there are production facilities in existence (sometimes with spare capacity). What seems to be lacking generally is the understanding of how to reconfigure the process around the technology. This is essentially what the manufacturing mindset really means.

Specification, design and project planning are core activities in any construction project. You approach each of these in a completely different way when you bring a manufacturing mindset to construction.

A Non Linear, Front-Loaded Process

Modern manufacturing isn’t a linear process. Different systems and components are created in parallel and then assembled. Technical details (including exactly how everything fits together) are fully resolved before anything gets made. Production can then flow and nobody has to eliminate clashes or make design changes on the fly. Construction can work in the same way.

This all explains why the manufacturing mindset is good for the built environment and the economy. It also outlines how the approach to construction projects needs to change.

This just leaves us with the thorny question of how to make it all happen. Here, there’s no substitute for practical experience. Osborne has been delivering projects using manufactured construction for over fifteen years. We know the technology well and even have our own panelised offsite self-build capability.

If you would like to ask us any questions about our approach to design, development or project delivery, contact Caroline Compton-James ([email protected]) or visit our resource centre.