Completing 4 months intensive (travelling) research in Modular Construction the past year throughout the Baltic Region has been an eye opener, to say the least. These humongous factories are truly mind blowing with up to 6 lines of production facility 24/7 operation, acres of factory space and the fire power to expand in a very quick period of time catering for the UK Housing Crisis.
A comment from one of our Baltic partners recently "If we need to build more homes for our customers we simply build another factory next door, we have plenty of room and will create one in a matter of months - investment is not an issue when we have more significant orders in the pipeline"
Now that wouldn't happen in the UK as much as I hate to say it, land being one of the key issues. We are proud of our country, but we had to wake up and smell the coffee to fulfil our British clients growing construction needs.
The UK Government's commitment to invest a massive £44 Billion in to helping to solve the Housing Crisis over the next 5 years is welcoming news - nobody should be homeless in this day and age. Despite tremendous bravado from the UK Construction Industry Modular Construction still remains a 'Cottage Industry' due to lack of sheer investment, a dire skills shortage and therefore little experience in modern modular construction. We calculate, with various tip-off's from the UK's Modular professionals, there are 3-4 large serious operational factories at most in the UK with very limited capacity and therefore selective who they can work with, the remainder are a mix of warehouses with equipment thrown in for good measure, numerous small-medium size factories are being set up with a vision to monetise providing housing to our great country. When I say 'large' I mean a factory that has capacity to build at 2,000 plus homes a year. We are proud British citizens, we want to see the UK improve its construction capability and employment levels by far, and also see the Government deliver on its quest to solve the shortage of skills. However, the reality is I am afraid are many construction professionals are anti anything that is non-British and goes against the grain of laying bricks and therefore slowing down the UK Governments plans to build 1,000,000 (one million) homes by 2020 - gulp! The lack of experience in some instances with Modular currently is shocking and reminds me personally dare I say similar to how we under estimated the Germans in the 2nd World War with our 'island mentality' with blatant discrimination and arrogance. Let's hope this changes to reach those targets to house our citizens affordably. Whilst the Government are boasting about recent housing targets (2016/17) only 19% are affordable. The target was raised to 250,000 homes built per year, but experts say it should be more like 300,000. My belief is it is best to embrace outside reliable quality solutions where necessary to hit those targets including more affordable housing, at the same time creating business opportunities to what we phrase as our UK Delivery Partners providing critical employment and investment here with a turn-key offering. The modules are built Off-site in the Baltic's to high standards with less waste, under controlled quality conditions, shipped to the UK and the site is prepared and completed by experienced British companies who gain from this business. Why fight it? the UK categorically cannot currently compete with Baltic Firepower for a variety of reasons, mostly skills shortage (industry perhaps? and the Governments fault), lack of proper investment and experience currently and with our research no one believes anything will change soon apart from small to medium size multiple factories setting up here there and everywhere making a very small dent indeed against a gigantic target for a small country. If one wants to help solve the housing crisis we all must understand that the UK is frankly currently ill equipped unfortunately, factories the size of mega car plants fully professionally automated are needed not warehouses under the pretence of sophisticated state of the art factories with little space to expand under one roof - avoiding a multiple dislocated and dis-organised organisation and lack of serious investment both factory and training workers.
Modular, be it Volumetric or Panel, doesn't suit every project, it's down to getting a solution in place well before planning begins, it has to fit and be designed to modular from day one otherwise it will be costly. Modular is not cheap but it is a cost-effective investment. If a cheap solution is required, we suggest forego the Baltic's and opt for China.
If modular won't work we inform our clients from day one and advise them to consider another route immediately be it timber frame/conventional brick/block or concrete build which we also provide - we are bias towards modular for our own personal beliefs in attempting to help solve the crisis and the huge targets set but not foolish enough to recommend if it is truly wrong. We work with UK experts from Architects, Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, Cost Management Consultants - we like to feed them as much as possible to provide a turn-key solution in housing, hotels, commercial offices, schools etc leaning on our Lithuanian Engineers for support where needed. Our Baltic partners also supply standalone Bathroom Pods for hotels and apartments etc. We are on the constant look out for UK Delivery Partners feeding each other work.
We land last week, 'fresh off the former Eastern bloc' from a very cold Lithuania and Estonia this time, to publish a blog here on LinkedIn and receive 14,000 views in just 3 days, varying demonstration of UK modular experiences which we value, mostly good some bad. Those that are 'bad' very much isolated experiences are comments claiming modular is more expensive? Firstly, it's down to supplier relations in achieving best value and secondly over a period time the benefits are considerable. Get your (and your wonderful investors) investment back a lot quicker improving ROI, solve the problem of housing and to highest standards at the same time. It's not been easy to convince the Baltic's to take us seriously at the true potential in Brexit Britain, trust is an issue based on too many visitors before us time wasting, the countries choice to exit Europe Union and stability, the ability to work closely together and delivery. The effort going in to building partnerships is extensive, factories often opting to choose who they wish to work with and not the other way around. Time-wasting cost obsessed customers are many (we avoid them like the plague), quality development schemes few and far between so it's all about scalability, sustainability, genuine and provable funding lines. Our simple advice is to of course to be humble with your approach to your supplier base, no big sticks needed, agree clear methods of working from day one, KPI's and mutual respect and lots of face to face meetings.....or perhaps just work with us with our Baltic & British partners, gain from our experience, save yourself years of travel, expense and sheer hassle at no extra cost with a turn-key solution.