ilke Homes – Open House
For four years ilke Homes has been selling a new concept in home construction, and the market is finally starting to pay attention.
ilke Homes offers a radical construction solution to the British market, working with local authorities, house builders, and developers to provide modular homes delivered with speed and quality 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.
Business Focus Magazine has tracked the company’s journey over the last couple of years, as it has brought a bold new concept to Britain’s housing problems. Of course, since we last spoke to them things have been particularly eventful thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During the first part of the pandemic we defaulted to government guidance around social distancing and PPE,” says Dave Sheridan, CEO of ilke Homes. “We took a lot of advice from specialists and worked very closely with our workers’ council. We made sure to bring the staff along with us and follow their guidance. We formed a strong relationship with the workforce, so that where measures needed to be relaxed or increased we responded accordingly. We took a common-sense approach, introducing more break periods to cut down on the number of people sharing this time together, and created worker cells and staggered shift times to avoid cross-contamination.”
The approach worked, and despite the challenges, Sheridan is proud of how far the company has come.
“It’s been surreal really,” says Sheridan. “Because we’ve been in a factory and a semi-construction related environment we’ve just got on with things. We have been carrying out business as usual to a degree, growing the pipeline of the business and acquiring further investment. It’s been a solid year and we’ve performed to plan.”
While simply staying afloat during the pandemic is an achievement in itself, for ilke this has been a landmark year for other reasons. When we have spoken to Sheridan before the firm has been involved in exciting pilot schemes and trials, but this year ilke Homes took it to the next level.
“The biggest achievement is establishing the product and building the pipeline, moving from pilot schemes into mainstream schemes,” Sheridan says. “We have taken our development sizes from ten to twelve units at a time, to up to 100 units.”
Entering the Mainstream
This achievement is the result of an 18-month long campaign, utilising a land-led strategy whereby the company’s front-end business team searched out land opportunities to demonstrate the quality of ilke Homes’ product.
“We gave people the confidence we could deliver, securing the land through our own team, and finding land deals that worked for our clients,” Sheridan explains.
We have seen ilke Homes go from strength to strength, but since we last spoke the firm’s product has gone from a bold new idea to a proved, tried and true concept.
“We have worked hard internally and through external messaging to show what we’re trying to achieve and what our model is,” Sheridan says. “We’ve employed specialist individuals with backgrounds in lean production and lean manufacturing to bridge the gap. We took a back-to-basics approach to identify what messaging works best to see if we are using the wrong language. We moved to a more direct team for delivery, cutting out the supply chain and sub-contractors. We now have the ilke way in delivering to the site.”
All this messaging and communication is backed up by the fact that its actual products have been seen in action for quite some time by now.
“We’ve had people living in the homes for a period of years to demonstrate how well it works,” Sheridan tells us. “We have academics tracking the product for health and environmental performance. We’ve worked hard to develop the product and improve aspects of the product and our processes.”
However, as ilke Homes’ reputation and market grow, it still has challenges to overcome.
“We face two big challenges. The first is the variable price of materials based on world markets – materials such as timber and steel,” Sheridan says. “We managed through that quite well. The other challenge has been the labour market. Nobody could have predicted we’d bounce back from Covid-19 as well as we have, but it has caused a blip in the labour market, making it difficult to find good quality people.”
To overcome this challenge, ilke Homes has partnered with a specialist recruitment firm and extended its hand to local communities.
“We’ve gone back to old fashioned hustle, advertising the business, reaching out to local communities, doing job fairs,” Sheridan tells us. “We have stayed on the front foot with recruiting strategies, creating high paid engineering roles in communities where manufacturing has died away.”
Indeed, as ilke Homes expands, more talent than ever is needed to ensure it can meet production.
“We’re ramping up production, so our approach has gone from a steady growth strategy to ramping up recruitment, creating 400 new jobs,” Sheridan tells us.
A Better Home
But ilke Homes is not just manufacturing more, it is manufacturing better. The experience ilke has built up has given the company the knowledge it needs to improve its designs and materials even further. The design and aesthetic of ilke Homes’ builds have been improved, and Sheridan is even more confident in the quality of its products and the future of the business.
“We’ve looked at where cracks occur just through natural movement, and improved the steel. We have launched our new range, taking feedback from clients about what they like and don’t like,” Sheridan says. “We have built this product over three years. We know what is manufacturable. We have improved the design for efficiency of production and according to client preferences. Our products now feature an improved kitchen design, we have adjusted where the ground floor toilet is according to customer preferences, and the houses now feature larger windows for light.”
With all that ilke Homes have achieved, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this is still a relatively young company and that this is only the beginning of its story.
“We’re going from start-up to scale-up,” Sheridan tells us. “We need to execute the production pipeline we have built. We are going from four modules a day to eight, then from eight modules to 16. The next step is to think about our second factory. That is still on the horizon, but we’re already putting our grey cells towards thinking about that.”