NG Bailey pushes forward with off-site manufacture
Assembling services modules on the bench in a factory environment is much easier and quicker than working overhead onsite.
One of the major players in off-site construction in the building-services industry is NG Bailey — and the opening of a new factory significantly boosts its capabilities.Reduced costs, quicker project delivery and improved quality performance are all accepted benefits of off-site manufacture. But the more you get involved in off-site manufacture (OSM), the more you appreciate the full extent of those benefits and the more benefits you discover. Mark Andrews, chief executive of contractor NG Bailey, explains, ‘It is also a sustainable method of construction. Off-site significantly reduces waste, lowers transport costs and, therefore, emissions. It improves health and safety and reduces site congestion.’ Experience
That summary of the benefits of OSM is based on six years’ experience of OSM, beginning in 2000, when NG Bailey set up a prefabrication division. From small beginnings, the division grew rapidly and moved to a site in Bradford three years ago. Three years is clearly a long time in OSM, and the company last month (June) moved into new premises representing an investment of £5 million and providing 5000 m2 of space — three times more then the previous site, which is nearby in the south of Bradford. It was formally opened by local MP Gerry Sutcliffe. He said, ‘I was delighted to be asked to open this impressive new facility. The regional economy in Yorkshire is very strong and, to continue growing, needs investment on this sort of scale. I’m proud to be associated with an enterprising, innovative local company which has the confidence to invest in the local economy. NG Bailey will be an integral part of the regeneration of this city.’ The factory will create up to 70 new jobs and includes a dedicated R&D facility, which will enable the company to continue its industry-leading approach to prefabrication. Managing director Martin Bailey explains that the new site has a capacity that is vastly more than its size alone would suggest. The net-to-gross floor area is much more efficient than before, partly because all the space is under one roof rather than in two separate buildings. 24-hour shifts can also be worked, which was not possible before because of the proximity to a residential area. One area of the factory is devoted to prefabricated plant rooms, and the provision of overhead cranes with a total lifting capacity of 24 t contributes to a 10-fold increase in production capability. There was no such lifting equipment on the previous site. Plant-room modules up to 9 m long, 4 m wide and 3.8 m high can be built and lifted onto delivery lorries without forward planning. Services modules
The other side of the factory has six production lines for prefabricated services modules.
The 5000 m2 of space in the this new factory of Bailey Off-Site has four times the output capability of the previous site.
The operation has a new name, Bailey Off-Site, headed by Phil Green. He explains that 30 to 40 pipe modules can be produced and tested in a day in this factory. Once they have been delivered to site, their installation requires one-and-a-half to two days. Doing all the work on site, he suggests, would probably take four weeks. Phil Green tells us that Bailey Off-Site supports 65 project teams throughout the UK and that it is an integral part of Bailey’s long-term strategy. While the technical capabilities of the new facilities were readily apparent to over 120 customers at the official opening, Mark Andrews had some serious advice to offer on how to maximise the benefits of OSM. He explained, ‘For off-site to be truly effective, it needs to be designed into a project from the outset. We as an industry face significant logistical, skills and cultural challenges to effect the changes in working methods to ensure this happens.’ He also called on the Government, as ultimately the largest end client, to promote the cause of prefabrication through its procurement methods. Unfortunately, as he pointed out, there have been nine construction ministers in seven years and each new minister has a massive learning curve to go through and will spend only a fraction of their time in an industry that represents 10 to 20% of GDP. The final message of Mark Andrews to customers and business partners was, ‘Since setting up a prefabrication division, we have seen first hand the benefits off-site has to offer, and this has been reflected in our order book. We truly believe off-site construction will play a big part in the future of construction and in the future of our business.’ Further insight into the role of OSM for NG Bailey was given by Martin Bailey. He explained, ‘The development of this business is an integral part of NG Bailey’s ambitious strategy to grow, ensure maximum profitability and develop modern methods of construction, allowing us to quadruple our current levels of production and substantially increase our research-and-development capabilities.’ Upfront process
Martin Bailey says that off-site manufacture of building services is growing at 25% a year, compared to just 15% for construction as a whole. The key to its continuing and future success is for OSM to be an upfront process and for those involved in prefabrication to work with clients at an early stage to freeze the design process. At present, the new factory works a single shift, five days a week — so there is clearly much scope for increasing output. 35 people work on the shop floor at present, and a recruitment and training programme is in place to recruit a further 70 people. ‘The use and acceptance of off-site construction is growing within the industry — it is the future,’ says Martin Bailey. ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could put construction into a Perspex box [rather than surrounding sites with opaque hoardings] and make it something we are proud of. In my view, it is using such modern methods which would make my dream a reality.’