Ilke Homes – Building the Future
We catch up with ilke Homes and find out how they are continuing to achieve their goals even in the face of a global pandemic.
ilke Homes are a manufacturer of modular homes for the British market, working with local authorities, housebuilders and developers to increase the quality and speed at which new homes can be delivered to development sites. Since the company was founded in 2017 it has dedicated itself to the task of creating aspirational and accessible homes for a range of customers, tenures and price points.
Although the company itself is relatively young, it stands on the foundation of the longstanding house building heritage of its offsite manufacturer, Elliot and the UK’s leading partnership homebuilder, Keepmoat Homes.
When we spoke with them last year, the company was enjoying a strong pipeline of work, boasted a clear investment strategy and had access to one of the world’s largest manufacturing networks.
Indeed, they had set themselves the goal of becoming a top ten housebuilder within the next ten years. When we spoke to Dave Sheridan, Executive Chairman of ilke Homes, last year, he had clear plans for the company’s future, telling us, “We have a fairly structured plan,” Sheridan says. “We want to get to 3,000 units in three to five years based on the current pipeline, then 5,000, then 10,000. We know the market’s there and with the right investment, we will reach that target. During that process we are looking at launching the next factory in 18 months, replicating what we have already achieved on a similar scale. We will invest in prototyping and assembly units to become more akin to car manufacturing. We have massive ambitions in terms of volume.”
Where Construction and Manufacturing Meet
Since we had that conversation ilke Homes has made a lot of progress. “It’s been going fine. We have got new technology installed and we have got projects coming to fruition. COVID interrupted a lot of what we’re doing, but we’re keeping on track,” Sheridan says. When ilke Homes first set up shop, the company faced a great deal of scepticism, having introduced what was in many ways an entirely new approach to housing construction.
When we speak to Sheridan today, however, it is clear ilke’s reputation has had a great deal of consolidation “The biggest achievement has got to be what our workforce has achieved over the last two years,” Sheridan says. “Clients and customers now believe in the product, that is our biggest achievement. We’ve gone from a great concept with lots of plaudits to a widely accepted product.”
That said, Sheridan readily acknowledges the work is ongoing. “Getting the warranty for the product has been our biggest challenge. We’re doing something that revolutionises how you build houses, so the challenge has always been bringing people along the journey,” he admits.
“Getting the supply chain to accept that the way we build houses requires new specifications in terms of bulk deliveries, logistics, and education. We’ve been learning as we’ve been going, building that cultural fit between the construction and manufacturing sectors, trying to get people to span both sectors.”
Finding and developing people with that skill set was a big task, but one ilke Homes was more than up to. “We employ people experienced in the field with a wider vision and skill set to match us,” Sheridan says. “If someone is from the manufacturing or construction side, we get them to understand and appreciate each other’s disciplines and how one impacts the other. We’re getting them to work together.”
Building Through COVID
Of course, one thing ilke Homes’ plans never accounted for was a once-in-a-century global pandemic, but when the COVID crisis hit, the company responded swiftly. “There had been messages from the government about shutdowns and lockdowns so we took the decision before the announcement on the 23rd of March to temporarily stop operations, but keep doing onsite work,” Sheridan explains.
“The supply chain shut down so we couldn’t’ make anything, and the workforce was isolating, kids were off school and a whole host of other challenges. So, at the start of the COVID crisis, the impact on the UK was about not understanding the challenge and people just being frightened. But we worked through it. We restarted in April using the time to polish up designs, work through operating procedures, keeping staff busy and learning the art of working from home with Teams and Zoom.”
Despite delays, ilke Homes soon adapted to the new status quo. “We lost four months of our program and stuff slipped back further as people are headed back to work now,” Sheridan says. “We now have over 300 people back in the factory, but it has slowed us down instigating safe working distances, all the health and safety challenges of getting 400 workers to top-rate health and safety with appropriate PPE.”
Indeed, Sheridan believes that in a lot of ways ilke Homes has come out of the other side of this crisis stronger than before. “We’ve found with our design team we can be more efficient with people working three days at home and two at work. We can be more adaptable with working plans. When you do have time to hit the pause button you can find more efficient ways to do things. We’ve learned how to process with the same output and refresh and rethink how we go about our business,” Sheridan says.
“The days of travelling for hours for a meeting need to be reviewed because we’ve learned efficient ways of working remotely and will rethink how often we meet in person. It’s made us think, ‘Do we need to spend that much time travelling going forward?’”
If anything, COVID has been an opportunity for the company to reaffirm its goals and values, with their unique combination of fabrication and construction proving to be a strength. “We’ve reviewed our processing standards. We’ve not been as badly impacted as those with live construction sites because we can build our homes in a controlled factory environment and can control the individual workforce,” Sheridan says. “It’s convinced us we’re on the right track and has let us engage with our supply chain in a lot more detail.”