CPA report sets out digital roadmap for construction product manufacturers

A blueprint for the future of construction product manufacturing sector spells out how it must integrate digitally with the design and construction process if it is to achieve growth of £30bn a year and halve the trade gap by 2025.

Commissioned and published by the Construction Products Association, The Future of Construction Product Manufacturing report is being seen as one of the final pieces in the jigsaw for creating a “Digital Built Britain”.

As part of the drive to integrate manufacturing digitally with construction and design the CPA is drawing up a new digital template, called LEXiCON, which allows all products to represented digitally in a consistent way through the BIM (Building Information Modelling) process. The inoperability of product information is currently a major industry frustration.

The report illustrates how the vision can be delivered by linking BIM, Industry 4.0 (smart factories) and intelligent assets through optimised supply chains and a circular UK construction economy and help the government tackle the trade gap.

“With current forecast growth in UK construction output, the construction product sector is likely to reach a capacity pinch-point as soon as 2019. At the same time, the trade gap for products and materials is increasing, with £7.9bn more imports than exports in 2015,” says the report.

“Through a combination of digitalisation, automation and optimised manufacturing-led supply chains, the sector can grow by over £30bn by 2025, assets can be delivered over 30% cheaper and 40% quicker, and the trade gap can be reduced to 50% by 2025 whilst supporting employment growth in the sector and wider economy.”

A by-product, says the report, will be better building performance, eliminating the gap between as-designed and as-built performance of buildings and providing more energy-efficient assets.

The CPA represents 87% of the UK’s construction products manufacturers, a £50bn per annum sector in its own right.

The CPA’s LEXiCON is a world first, and enables manufacturers and other users to define information requirements easily, for free.

Weinerberger shows the way

Weinerberger, a manufacturer of bricks, blocks and roof tiles, among other products, has developed a housing concept called the e4 house. Weinerberger has set up a consortium to provide products and systems that it does not produce to deliver a whole house solution, and has supported this with digital capability to support delivery and operation of the home. Occupants are provided with a digital model of their home and apps that enable them to track building performance and organise predictive maintenance.

“The government’s BIM Level 2 programme has enabled manufacturers to share product information in more accessible forms than has previously been achievable,” says the report. “The awareness of data and the possibilities that effective use can bring have been widespread. As a result many manufacturers are using data and information modelling to change the way they operate internally, as well as sharing information with others in the construction supply chain.

“However, there are a number of formats in which product information can be provided, in many different templates, which can cause confusion for all concerned.

“LEXiCON has been developed by the construction product sector with the government’s BIM Task Group.

The tool will be freely available through the Construction Products Association’s website and is governed by recognised industry bodies known as Relevant Authorities, to ensure the language being used is correct and consistent.

“Whilst data dictionaries and product templates exist elsewhere, never before has there been such broad industry engagement and governance, with over 70% of UK trade associations signing up to become Relevant Authorities and managing how their products are defined,” says the report.

Peter Caplehorn, deputy chief executive of the CPA, said of the report: “We’ve heard a lot from consultants and designers and Tier 1s. But product manufacturers are the DNA of construction and it makes sense for them to have a clear strategy and direction.

Talking of the new LEXiCON template he added: “We’re providing a new fabric of doing things – all products represented with common data and a common way of expressing their performance. It makes collaboration across industry more straightforward. Designers will be able to take products in and out of the BIM model and be able to compare costs and performance. Join this up with the manufacturers’ own manufacturing process and construction teams will be able to be more efficient and more productive and genuinely operate with just-in-time delivery.”

The report’s author, Steve Thompson, chair of BIM4M2 (BIM for Manufacturers and Manufacturing), says the report provides an analysis of how product manufacturers have changed in the past five years and shows how more automated supply chains can provide greater efficiency in delivery of assets.

“And once something has been built we will be able to track where products are and what they do to deliver smarter assets and promote the circular economy,” he said.

Through a combination of digitalisation, automation and optimised manufacturing-led supply chains, the sector can grow by over £30bn by 2025, assets can be delivered over 30% cheaper and 40% quicker, and the trade gap can be reduced to 50% by 2025.– CPA report

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