The Coronavirus crisis is forcing businesses to quickly find new ways of working to survive in a world that has been turned on its head. Necessity has become the mother of invention as procurement is fast tracked to allow innovation and new approaches that have seen hospitals and other essential infrastructure created in just a few weeks.
The construction sector must use the lessons from this crisis to replace the decades-old contractor model with a more a collaborative approach that drives innovation and delivers the ambitions of the Construction Sector Deal, according to Tony Wells, Managing Director at offsite engineering and construction specialist, Merit: “The last thing that the construction sector needs is to go back to normal. Normal was a failing contractor model ill-equipped to meet the UK’s construction needs. Before the start of this crisis, over 4,000 businesses were predicted to go bust in 2020. That number will sadly increase with the devastating impact of the virus, but the new thinking that is being used to find rapid solutions today should not be lost when this ends. We need to come out of it with the confidence to implement a new approach from the experience.”
North East based Merit is reaping the rewards of a different approach, effectively turning itself into a technology company and delivering construction projects through a proprietary offsite manufacturing process.
The ‘Product’ strategy is a key driver for the company’s increased efficiency, putting it at the heart of the UK’s major initiatives to develop infrastructure for the development of curable disease therapies in modern healthcare.
The ability to adapt and innovate quickly has seen Merit develop designs for mobile laboratories, vaccine manufacturing facilities and containment suites that can be constructed in a matter of weeks.
Merit operates with a vertically integrated in-house team from BIM modelling, PAM (pre-assembled modules) manufacturing at Merit’s DfM Factory through to onsite assembly and validation. To augment their self-delivery approach, embedded supply chain partners are used to complement the service offering.
Wells continued: “The key lesson from this crisis should be the recognition that the traditional Tier 1,2,3 model is outdated and simply isn’t agile enough to deliver the innovation that UK construction needs. The new ways of working we’re seeing to rapidly deliver solutions need to become the sector’s normal, unencumbered by traditional models and ‘lowest cost’ procurement. Without the constraints of the old models, the sector would have real freedom to innovate and build high, quality, sustainable buildings at genuine best value.
“At Merit, our ‘think different’ strategy which has seen further innovation integrated into the PAM design, leading to our Zero Carbon 2020 strategy where we eliminate fossil fuels from our projects and achieve significant OPEX reductions for no additional CAPEX.
“We combine the advantage of Design and Build and single point of responsibility for design and cost risk, with self-execution of the technical parts of the project to reduce project schedule and cost. Our expertise in design and offsite manufacture reduces overall project ‘Time to Use’ by half while at the same time achieving improved quality, reliability and certainty of validation.”
Merit’s innovative approach combines innovative thinking with zero carbon commitment to deliver significant capital and running cost savings and is at the heart of the company’s continued success across the UK for clients that include the NHS, Rolls Royce, GSK, Lifescan and Cell Gene Therapy Catapult.