Category: News

AMCM Group supports The Housing Forum report: ‘Building Better Homes – The quality challenge’

In 2017, AMCM Group was part of a cross-sector working group of The Housing Forum members which investigated how building better quality homes can improve the experience of those living in them.

Building Homes Better – The quality challengeThe group looked into the points of interaction between customers and the housing industry and found systemic failures to provide quality outcomes – either in terms of design quality or customer satisfaction.

The findings of the investigation were published in the ‘Building Homes Better – The quality challenge‘ report. This report highlights where problems occur and what we think can be done about them to achieve a positive change for quality.

AMCM Group CEO Jon Wardle specifically looked at what we are lacking in project delivery, and why quality is vital in ensuring we have a connected and integrated supply chain. The following is an extract from the report:

Harnessing the benefits of an integrated supply chain

It is an all too common fact that when an asset is being designed, procured and manufactured, the processes are owned, managed and executed by 95% of individuals who are salaried, and some might say emotionally invested, in the quality of the product.

However, when the project reaches site, the final aspect of the quality process is very often owned and managed by operatives who are self-employed and only invested in the scheme for that single transaction. Not only do we have a declining labour force, but our current procurement and delivery models manifest a lack of ownership at the very point when quality really counts.

As noted within the foreword of the Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model there is an “absence of alignment between the industry and client interests” and despite this being published in 2016, this is still prevalent today when you consider the intrinsic structure of traditional supply chain models where there is limited, if any connection, between client, suppliers and manufacturers of products specified by designers, installed or assembled by contractors and the operative who is responsible for the quality of the finished product.

A focus on quantity to deliver quality

If clients were to integrate their supply chains, including designers, manufacturers and installers, earlier in the project and even across more than simply one project, then all parties would benefit from greater transparency of forward order books. Greater certainty of volumes would lead to an environment where more parties could naturally invest in R&D and skills development, which would improve productivity and reduce costs. These savings could then be reinvested in quality assurance resources and processes.

A focus on quantity and standardisation must not be seen as a way to reduce costs but a way to increase investment and collaboration.

The importance of a sustainable profit to deliver quality

When industries and businesses generate sustainable margins, R&D and investment inevitably follows. We believe that central and local government should utilise current and future procurement frameworks to provide greater transparency of workloads beyond the traditional models to engage with designers, suppliers, manufacturers and installers in return for transparent investment in quality focused R&D and skills.

By providing the framework and catalyst for investment in the key elements of the development value chain, the Government will influence the private sector as the public and private sectors’ supply chains are intrinsically linked.

Traditionally, the private sector element of housing development has focused on reducing CAPEX to improve and sustain profit margins. However, a successful private rented sector business model is aligned to that of a local authority or housing association asset owning/managing model. This model is one whereby 70% of revenue is impacted by improvements in whole life costs and asset management and ultimately customer/resident satisfaction.

We would recommend that procurement routes that allow joint investment in products and services and skills be created whereby quality and a reduction in whole life costs is a key metric for the private and public sector.

Developing and integrating skills to deliver quality

Whilst the underlying definition of quality should be the same from project to project, there are key elements that are bespoke to each project. It is therefore critical that:

  1. The quality metrics are defined and understood at the beginning of a project including those that are bespoke
  2. That the relevant skills are developed and integrated into the project team to ensure that the client’s and stakeholders’ aspirations are fully met.

Developing and integrating skills is relevant when thinking about being a good client, designer, manufacturer, contractor or self-employed operative and is particularly relevant when considering the impact of new forms of procurement, design, manufacture, construction and quality control.

We would recommend that via the CITB and its industrial strategy, the Government demonstrates leadership and investment to equip the industry to not only survive but to thrive.

This must be done by regulating skills-based programmes and employment initiatives across the broad spectrum of roles within the industry. For example, designers need to be trained in virtual reality and manufacturing processes, we must invest in training to create qualified semi-skilled and skilled operatives in construction manufacturing facilities and, most importantly, on site, which must be seen as the final section of the assembly line where quality concludes rather than diminishes.

In conjunction with these design and production skills, whether by procurement and delivery outputs or by regulation, the role of quality inspection and management must be a skill that is integrated into the delivery process throughout the project brief, design, manufacture and construction.

New forms of procurement and contracts must require investment and ownership in the quality process from inception to completion by the actual procuring client.

How to achieve quality

How much focus do we really put on delivering a quality product? How many man hours are expended on quality inspections on site compared to the man hours constructing?

Unfortunately, we currently only have anecdotal evidence to suggest not very many but, if you focus on quality through design, construction, inspection and testing, huge improvements can be made.

Our recommendation is that the ‘chassis’ of projects, e.g. foundations, drainage, frame, envelope, etc., are regulated by clear guidance and objective-driven outputs, and that the inspection procedures and approvals are regulated by legislation.

Consider again the dynamic where 95% of people on a construction site are self-employed and only for a limited time with very probably no employment contract or job description – it brings into perspective why the quality and testing regimes on site must be even more robust than in a controlled manufacturing environment.

The full report can be downloaded from The Housing Forum website.

Find out more: http://www.housingforum.org.uk/resources/building-homes-better—the-quality-challenge


The Development Partnership Forum looks at growth opportunities for UK housing development in 2018

The Housing Forum has created a Development Partnership Forum to build influence and promote collaboration within the residential sector.

This Forum brings together government and industry to share best practice and support new entrants into the housing market. It gives policy makers feedback on the issues they need to be aware of, making this a highly relevant initiative as the Government looks to accelerate and increase house building and to address issues of quality.

In January this year, the Forum met to look at future prospects for 2018, including the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the draft New London Plan and opportunities for small builders.

The key outcomes from the meeting included the need for collaboration and partnership working, stating that through partnerships and learning from one another the industry will be able to rise to the challenge of increasing the supply of new homes. The sector needs to recognise and promote the contribution that all the different players can make and any level.

While central and local government have provided policies and funding to help SME house builders, these need to be designed and delivered in a way that they can be easily accessed and utilised.

AMCM Group CEO Jon Wardle, who is a member of the Forum, specifically looked at growth opportunities for the smaller builder. Being an SME, AMCM Group’s focus is on building quality homes, and Jon commented: “There are opportunities as well as challenges for small builders. For example, the opportunity for housing associations and developers bid as part of joint ventures and turnkey contracts. SMEs need to consider how they can stand out in the normal contracting process and add a premium. They can be part of the solution if used correctly because there are opportunities to collaborate with the majority of new housing on smaller schemes (schemes of 500 units and more account for only 14% of development).

“SMEs want to work quickly, especially on small sites yet such sites often need high initial investment to make them suitable for housing. This is a risky business for SMEs and the industry needs to find a better way to support them (patient investors). Off-site manufacture is being used by some SMEs and there is likely to be some off-site solution on every site but this requires different skills and investment.”

It was also discussed that the residential sector needs to take the opportunities awarded to it by using all the funding the Government has made available and to increase the supply of new homes. To do this, the sector needs to work collaboratively together to increase its influence with Government to benefit from the Sector Deal and funding.

With land requirements doubling in most London Boroughs, there is a concern that the draft New London Plan will restrict use of low grade industrial land for housing – this land can be used for more innovative ways of providing homes.

Elliot Kemp, Principal Strategic Planner on the London Plan Team for the Greater London Authority said: “The Mayor’s seven strategies have been integrated into the draft London Plan that will be adopted in the Autumn 2019 after the current consultation and its examination in public (autumn 2018). There has been a new approach to the Plan, with clearer policies that can be directly adopted by the boroughs so that they can focus on delivery.

“Good growth is the Plan’s guiding principle, growth that will be sustainable. There is clear spatial detail identifying where development and infrastructure is needed, as well as a new assessment of housing need.”

The Forum will continue to meet throughout 2018 to progress on the areas identified for growth and offer support to Government initiatives.

Further details on the outcomes from the meetings can be found on The Housing Forum website.

Find out more: http://www.housingforum.org.uk/our-events/development-partnership-forum/development-partnership-forum


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