Elliott Group – A Seismic Shift
We talk to the Elliott Group about the growing role of off-site construction solutions and how perceptions of the sector are changing.
The Elliott Group was established in 1963 and is part of the Modulaire Group, a business which specialises in the provision of off-site manufactured space solutions for both temporary and permanent use.
“It’s a mature business and one which has developed over many years as the market has changed in its opinions and attitudes towards off-site construction,” explains Phil Pavey, Director of Elliott. “The side of the business I work for provides building regulation compliant accommodation, both temporary and permanent, across many sectors. We specialise in retail and education however our solutions can be applied to a wide range of end-users. The Group also encompasses Elliott Hire which holds many thousands of assets that are rented across various markets to provide space solutions where customers have a temporary need.
The business has been built on a strategy of long-term innovation and continual change.
“We have adapted to where we believe the market must, and will, go. We have elevated and developed our products and solutions offering and we are not alone in that. As an industry, we are slowly changing Client’s opinions of what off-site manufacturing can deliver” Pavey tells us. “I think many people held perceptions in the past that off-site was cold, damp accommodation which leaked and was only there for temporary use. Some Clients still hold this mindset however that of the masses is changing as modern methods of construction, MMC, come to the fore.”
Often innovation can be a very closed and secretive affair as businesses compete to deliver the latest solutions, however, this is not the case with Elliott, as Zoe Powell, Elliott’s Director for Business Development & Work Winning points out. “Collaboration has been essential. We are a company that shares our ideas and concepts with competitors and have been very open with our IP. This is shared with the wider off-site industry as the scale and pace of the market grows rapidly. From the Modernise or Die Farmer report to the presumption in favour of off-site stated in the Autumn Budget of 2017, through the current pandemic and the government kick-starting the economy, we’re gearing up for capacity, capability and quality.”
This is a strategy that can be seen clearly in Elliott’s work within the education sector and the Innovate UK funded Seismic Project, where Elliott has worked with businesses that traditionally might be considered direct competitors in developing a standardised frame solution.
“The Seismic Project has been supported by Government Funding to drive sustainable standardised solutions for use across all Public Sectors and to contribute to net-zero targets by 2050,” Powell tells us. “The project is a catalyst to develop net-zero building solutions and is needed in order to deliver the construction volume and output that the country requires to deliver its estate.”
Pavey adds “The latest framework we are working on represents the seventh generation in modular solutions. If you take it right back to the first framework, the challenge was to come up with a componentised solution that maximises off-site construction. Elliott, with our wider partners and consultants, has elevated and developed that componentised scheme.”
This has meant leaving a lot of the old assumptions of the construction industry behind, with traditional materials being abandoned in favour of focussing our solutions on material choices and designs that are better suited to an off-site manufacturing process.
“We have calculated the Pre Manufactured Value of our solution and are targeting over 80% of the build being completed in the factory,” Powell says. “This will be enhanced further with the inclusion of pre-assembled panels and the use of innovative materials and technology”.
Whilst Elliott is doing some impressive and innovative work, it also has to combat some old assumptions about what off-site construction really is.
“Client perception is changing however it is taking far longer than I could have imagined,” Powell admits. “I migrated from Tier 1 contracting into the modular world five years ago as I felt that this was the exciting time where offsite was about to take off however it has taken all this time to be considered a serious competitor and option to traditional build. Managing the perception of our Clients is something the Business Development Team focuses on. Finding the correct price point has also been a challenge. Just because a product is made in a factory it does not necessarily mean that it will be cheaper. Off-site construction brings additional benefits such as certainty of programme and quality however these benefits do come at a cost. Once a pipeline of significant volume over a longer time period becomes visible to the off-site providers as a mass, only then through investment in our factories, our people, product standardisation, our supply chain and sustainability, will we drive the cost benefits and realise the value that MMC brings.”
Pavey also acknowledges that perceptions are changing.
“The Department for Education (DfE) are leading the way in driving MMC,” he insists. “This is being recognised in other departments such as Health and Defence and who are being encouraged to consider the benefits of a componentised solution. The importance of visibility of pipeline is key. The great thing about the DfE’s current MMC Framework is that the pipeline is £3 billion value and this enables us to invest as Zoe suggests. This will drive the efficiency savings people are looking for as opposed to reacting to individual bespoke schemes.
Aside from the off-site above-ground construction solution, Elliott offers, they also provide a full turnkey service effectively operating as a Tier 1 Main Contractor.
“For our Design and Build projects, we do everything ourselves. In terms of de-risking the project, we provide a full service from in-house design, manufacture, installation, handover and into maintenance,” Powell says. “We have our own internal resource to do this, nothing is outsourced. Everything we do is in our gift to deliver for the Client and I think Clients are starting to understand that.”
It is an approach Clients appreciate, including some big names.
“We are proud of our relationship with McDonald’s and have built over 130 restaurants for them,” Pavey says. “We continually innovate with McDonald’s. They’re good at it, know what they want and we have just recently launched the next generation of buildings with them.”
The outlook is bright for Elliott when we speak to them, although like all businesses the company has faced challenges this year. Fortunately, they were able to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Early in the pandemic, we created a business continuity team which met daily to monitor everything across the business in terms of people, issues we were having etc. We immediately moved all our office staff to work from home and our IT team did a fantastic job in mobilising that,” Pavey says. “It has been very successful and we have now introduced agile working policies which afford people the opportunity to work from home in the long term.”
Looking forward Elliott is investing in its manufacturing facility to deliver further efficiencies.
“We are strong in education and retail. As MMC develops, we want to be at the forefront and driving this solution into many other sectors through successes like the Seismic product,” Pavey says.
This investment encompasses people, as well as buildings and equipment.
“We’re investing in the factory, product development and people because we can’t do this without them,” Powell says. “We’re recruiting high-quality people to help deliver.”
Pavey agrees, “While a lot of companies are cutting their workforce, we’ve identified almost 30 new positions as part of that investment process.”
Phil Parvey, Director of Elliott Group Zoe Powell, Director for
Business Development & Work Winning