In Touch With Tomorrow : our strategic asset of DfMA leadership

19/6/20: In the third of a series of articles, Group CEO Mark Lawrence follows up the recent trading update with some more in-depth analysis of the Group’s prospects going forward and his reasons for confidence. In this one he looks at the strategic advantage which the Group’s Manufacturing capability represents in current and future markets.

At the forefront of practical construction innovation 

In the first of these articles I talked about our presence in data centre markets. TClarke is of course also a market leader in the whole range of ICT, digital and data building services. We have a major partnership with Gooee and our own team now includes world class software engineers, working with global digital companies to deliver leading-edge projects. 

But while so much innovation within our business happens in the digital sphere, it is extremely important to understand that a longstanding strategic drive in the field of prefabrication and offsite manufacture has led us, in the past few years to build a market leading reputation for manufacturing that is every bit as central to our relevance for clients. 

So in this article I’m going to talk about this area of our business and how it delivers for our client base and for all our stakeholders. In a separate story on our website, we’re also going to introduce our work with Lendlease at Triton Square. This is an exceptional project, going on right now, that demonstrates the practical realities behind our strategic capability.

An exceptional in-house capability – value within the business

Within TClarke, we don’t talk about prefab or ‘offsite’ we talk about Design for Manufacturing and Assembly or DfMA. This is not just a technical point – DfMA is a complete engineering philosophy and approach to work, which builds in value and practical improvement in every detail of the construction strategy, the design phase, the process of manufacturing and quality assurance and in the details of logistics and installation which have such a major bearing on construction programme efficiency. So, from the outset, when clients buy into TClarke, they are not just buying into a commodity service, albeit a quality one – they are getting knowledge and a conceptual approach which drives substantial value to a construction programme.

I am very pleased to say that following our usual approach, where we seek to enter an area of the marketplace like this, our objective is to be a leader within a few years and also to build the relevant skills and knowledge and retain it in-house, so it is a growing resource that our clients can access. So, today, our team consists of people who are not just good – they are acknowledged industry experts in DfMA within the construction industry.

That is not just within our design teams, it is equally true within our skilled, world class welding team. For many years TClarke’s manufacturing facility has been fully accredited as a testing and certification centre itself – which means we can also train and bring through our next generation of talent. All of these details matter to the value you can deliver.

So we have the people; we also have the dedicated facility. We made the investment in a brand new facility a couple of years back, as ever, from our own resources and with no recourse to debt. But neither did we compromise on what we wanted to create. 

Within the one purpose-built 26,000 sq ft facility, we can build the largest, most complex, prefabricated modules of all kinds – from major elements of plant for the rooftops of data centres, to complex riser modules and multi-service modules that will be installed with 25 millimetre tolerances deep within the basements of the most advanced buildings in the world today, to service modules ready to drop into luxury apartments. All of them are plug and play, fully tested, and quality assured.

Relevance to clients – control and quality

The key strategic advantage which we gain as a business from operating our own facility – and one of such high quality – is that we can dedicate it to our clients projects. What does that mean in practice? It means that if your project requires it, we can work 24/7 to support your construction programme. This level of control, combined with our level of quality represents a very clear advantage for our clients – and it helps us to win major projects. 

Why DfMA matters to TClarke

‘Leadership’ and ‘agility’ are good sounding words in an annual report; the reality of achieving them is a lot harder. Our current DfMA capability is the result of a decade’s work and the delivery of numerous landmark projects. What we have now is a strategic offering that makes us a serious option for major M&E projects. 

When I talk with the teams from the world scale digital technology giants with whom TClarke now partners, this DfMA capability is one of the key factors that gives them reason to trust us and choose to work with us.

During the stresses of COVID-19, our DfMA facility, with its highly controlled, safety-focused and manageable operation has proved itself capable of safe and healthy operation and delivery for clients.  As such, it has been one of the many TClarke success stories during this period. 

Strategic clarity

When I was looking for a simple phrase to re-focus our business strategy 6 months or so ago, In Touch With Tomorrow was the phrase I chose. TClarke has been operating with a clear vision and today’s DfMA capability is key to our current and future relevance.