Mark Farmer sees the MTC’s potential for construction industry change

Influential construction industry reformer Mark Farmer has backed the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to offer the sector a ‘massive opportunity to up its game’.

Farmer, author of ‘Modernise of Die’, a no holds barred independent review into the issues facing the construction industry,is strongly advocating the impact the MTC can have after a tour of the Coventry-based facility at the end of March.

The MTC, one of seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres in the UK, is at the forefront of a number of innovative technologies including digital manufacturing, robotics and additive manufacturing.

With Farmer recommending a need for the construction sector to innovate, he had the opportunity to explore the latest virtual and augmented reality developments, saw the strides being taken in developing 3D (additive) concrete printing and got an overview of the MTC’s apprenticeship programme, aimed at overcoming an impending skills gap in the manufacturing sector.

In the wake of his visit, Farmer believes there is much for the construction industry to learn – particularly from other industries that have invested heavily in innovation.

“What is interesting about coming to a place like the MTC is being able to look at how other industries are deliveringinnovation and that’s the biggest compare and contrast,” said Farmer, chief executive of Cast Consultancy.

“Construction is quite an insular industry and we tinker at the edges with our processes, but what I have seen here is a completely different approach to how you can deliver.

“There are processes that are already being used in automotive and aerospace, but that doesn’t mean similar processes can’t be applied to construction. It’s how you apply those processes in a way that’s applicable with construction that is a massive opportunity.

“What the MTC is doing is exposing the opportunity for construction to change the way it delivers and to up its game.”

He added:

“What’s been the real revelation has been taking a step back from the end product and to think about the importance of process optimisation. What it has highlighted is that people in the construction industry have got a preconceived idea as to what the product should be and the process by which it is delivered, without really taking a step back to first principles and optimising that entire journey.

“It’s the quality management approach, understanding what protocols you set in place and how you ensure that what you’re delivering is completely optimised as an end-to-end process. Construction has a lot to learn from that.”

Susan Hone Brookes, chief engineer for construction and infrastructure at the MTC and a board member of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), is part of a newly-formed team striving to deliver a step-change for the construction and infrastructure sectors to meet the targets laid down by the Government.

She said:

“It was pleasure to host Mark at the MTC. We want to raise awareness of what we can offer to companies in thissector and, with Mark’s assistance, the MTC will act as a ‘broad church’.

“We’re looking to bring together thought leaders, consultants, constructors and the supply chain, developing a faster route for innovation adoption, providing an ecosystem for building confidence in new innovation and enabling their timely implementation and exploitation at an independent location where the industry can pool knowledge, share experiences and solve its problems.”