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Panel advises 'factory mentality' approach to solve industry issues

20 May 2016

One of the outcomes from a recent cross-industry round table was the construction sector needs to adopt a factory mentality to overcome its many challenges.

Hosted by UK Construction Week, this was the first gathering of a number of advisory panels and consisted of senior figures from architecture, engineering, contracting and housebuilding.

Discussion covered a number of key issues, including the skills shortage, diversity, the housing crisis and the reputation of the sector.

Chaired by property developer and Built by Her campaigner Marta de Sousa, she began the meeting the meeting by asking the panel how the industry expects to attract the reported 36,000 new workers required each year.

Places for People group chief executive David Cowans highlighted the issue of short termism, resulting from the exposure to economic pressures, which is a "major barrier" and creates a boom-bust cycle that sees workers sacked when production falls.

Glenigan economics director Alan Wilen cited the number of projects on hold, presumed to be awaiting outcome of the European referendum and creating further uncertainty.

The need to increase the use of practices such as off-site manufacturing was discussed by Cabinet Office head of construction Dr David Hancock, receiving agreement from the panel.

This will involve moving away from traditional mind and skill sets and overcoming deep-seated negative perceptions, it was stated.

L&G Homes chief executive officer Tom Ground said computer-controlled factory environments also offer a means of improving diversity in the workplace and removing the need for practices such as the lifting of heavy objects.

Comparing construction with manufacturing, Construction Products Association chief executive officer Dr Diana Montgomery said there is no skills shortage in the latter, which benefits from more workforce diversity due to different working conditions.

A video summary of the discussion can be viewed at https://youtu.be/qtQMU0e27z8

PFM editor Dennis Flower has chaired a panel discussion for the HVAC part of UK Construction Week, the results of which will be published next week.

PFM is the media partner for the HVAC section of the show which takes place from 18 to 20 October at Birmingham's NEC.


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