In June 2021, I wrote a blog about why sustainable contracting arrangements are vital to the government’s build back recovery plan. In that blog I talk about how delivering excellent public sector works is a crucial part of the government’s plans to bring £37bn worth of public sector contracts to the market over the next year. To help meet this aim the Cabinet Office produced The Construction Playbook (Playbook) which provides government guidance on sourcing and contracting public works’ projects and programmes. In this blog I’ll explore the modern methods of construction (MMC) referenced in the Playbook and what this means for project professionals.
The Playbook supports the government’s plans to transform the public sector estate and infrastructure networks over the next decade and beyond, supporting aims to build back better, faster and greener. Whether the scope is delivery of a school, hospital or major infrastructure project, the principles in the Playbook are the same which details the approach to assessing, procuring and managing public works’ projects and programmes.
A key part of the government’s pledge is to end the UK’s contributions to global warming by 2050. The public sector has a fundamental role to play in driving through the change needed to achieve such an ambitious goal. Building for 2050 is calling for transformation change which is going to impact the way we look at construction processes and products. This is where MMC plays a part.
Modern methods of construction has a heavy focus in the Playbook’s 14 principles: (4) harmonise, digitise and rationalise demand and (5) further embed digital technologies. These guidelines are mandated for central government departments and arm’s length bodies on a ‘comply or explain’ basis, which recognises that there is not a one-size fits all approach to all public sector works. MMC also has common themes running throughout the document, bringing together commercial best practices and reforms to drive better, faster, greener delivery by transforming delivery to a safer, more innovative, manufacturing‑led approach. This in turn, increases the end‑to‑end speed of projects and programmes. MMC also has its own specific chapter in the Playbook comprising part of the preparation and planning (typical project activity) section of the document.
A heavy emphasis on MMC in the Playbook
MMC is a wide term, covering a range of offsite manufacturing and onsite techniques. It provides alternatives to traditional construction methods and has the potential to deliver significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality for both the construction industry and public sector.
The Playbook says that we need to change the way we procure construction to support investment in MMC and skills. Adopting longer term contracting is one way of achieving this, but however we contract across our works, we need to actively consider how we can maximise the use of MMC. We need contracting authorities to develop a comprehensive strategy at an organisational level, running through their portfolios and down to individual projects and programmes. MMC is not an end solution and contracting authorities should consider whether, how and to what extent the use of MMC can drive wider value and achieve the project or programme objectives.
The aim of the Playbook is to use the best approaches currently available to deliver projects, while developing approaches that enable the development and use of effective new technologies. There is also an expectation for targets to be set on the level of use of MMC in the delivery of projects and programmes. Ongoing engagement with the whole supply chain is essential for the development and implementation of a successful strategy for using MMC. As a working example, project professionals should be aware that the NHS have recently set a target of 65 per cent pre-manufactured value on their new hospital programme schemes to support the use of MMC.
Examples of some of the positive impacts of MMC
The Playbook states that the following positive impacts can be achieved by aggregating, standardising demand and increasing the use of MMC on projects and programmes:
Improved on‑site safety and efficiency as a result of optimised and repeatable processes across shared solutions.
Improved efficiencies in the design process, for example as a result of automation, the repeated use of designs and sharing of requirements and associated solutions.
Increased buying efficiencies through improved category management and manufacturers leveraging consistency in the component pipeline.
Greener solutions as a result of an increase in manufacturing approaches.
Greater predictability and lower maintenance costs from the use of shared manufactured components and assemblies, and the associated opportunities to share methods.
What are your thoughts? Has the government’s Construction Playbook got it right? And is MMC an essential part of the government’s plans to build back better, faster, and greener?