Timing is Everything
By Kevin Sherlock, Managing Director, Smartroof
With the construction sector beginning to recognise offsite manufacturing as a viable solution to skills shortages and a potential panacea to the housing crisis, it became clear we needed to further invest in our Smartroof production facility to match the expectation and growth in demand from our customers. The £1.2 million investment we have made in our Derbyshire factory is set to increase our manufacturing capabilities by 150% which equates to the facility producing Smartroofs for up to 25 plots per day. At a time when more of us are working from home and more space in our homes is required, I think it is fair to say timing couldn’t be better.
Newer, safer and faster methods of construction will put housebuilders on a path towards the government target of creating 300,000 new homes every year. The increasing use of off-site fabrication and solutions such as our panelised ‘room in roof’ system will give a much needed boost to the UK housing supply capacity, as well as ensuring regulatory targets for energy efficiency are met or even succeeded.
The growth in home working and the need for extra dedicated space – rather than the dining room table – will also mean housebuilders will be looking for ways to maximise available space and financial return. Our ‘room in roof’ system is a solution they will want to explore as we look to exploit a new home’s full potential.
To meet the demand, we have significantly altered our 48,000ft2 production facility with particular attention paid to the layout and flow of materials. To create an optimised facility design, we broke the layout down into a number of areas with the starting point being the raw material. This is then moved to the source or saw area where the cross-cutting of material takes place. The material then progresses into the assembly area which is split into roof and wall panels. The roofing system is finally taken from the factory into the yard prior to loading. We broke down all of these segments in terms of time and motion to make them more efficient and ensure maximum productivity.
In terms of material handling, we looked at the possibility of turntables and conveyors but the very nature of the triangular roof shapes meant an overhead system was the way forward. We stripped out the existing factory and mini-crane system which was around the perimeter and installed an overhead crane system that covers the whole floor space of the factory. Five state-of-the-art fabrication bays have been installed along with 15 new overhead cranes. Different bays produce different elements of the modular roof system. It’s about breaking it down to be more efficient on time and motion.
To further increase the efficiency of production processes, new automated CNC saws enable safe, accurate and fast cross-cutting, while new roof and spandrel benches have been constructed to incorporate retractable airline hoses for improved safety. Each bench has its own equipment so staff do not have to move around the factory, disrupting other processes and impacting on safety measures.
In light of social distancing restrictions due to Covid-19, the new layout segregates sawing and manufacturing and so we now have much more space compared to our old factory layout. Whilst improving staff safety and reducing waste, the new factory layout and machinery is dramatically increasing the company’s production capability.
The alterations and improvements began in March 2020 during the UK’s first lockdown but our plans had started before Covid hit. You could say that timing is everything. As a result of the pandemic, I am confident we are going to see more demand for ‘room in roofs’ so our investment programme could not have been timed better.
As more and more housebuilders are turning to ‘room in roof’ systems, this investment has allowed us to improve our output, stay ahead of the competition and support the delivery of UK housing programmes with an innovative system that meets the requirements for quality, safety and performance.