Collingwood’s Head of Building Products, Mark Goldsmith, first met Geoff Fawkes some five years ago whilst he was at aggregate giants Tarmac. Forward to 2019 and he is now 18 months into his first foray in a boardroom, having been appointed as offsite manufacturing giant The McAvoy Group's Business Development & Marketing Director. Geoff nipped into Collingwood’s office for an update and here is what they spoke about.
Mark: Your product focus has certainly changed since our last meeting Geoff. How have you found the transition from aggregates to the world of modular and offsite technologies?
Geoff: It’s been a fascinating change, due to looking at the Construction Market sectors with a slightly different lens, but some remarkable similarities in terms of both businesses offering solutions that are ‘made to stock’, or ‘made to order’. I’ve learnt a lot, and am still learning, but have enjoyed the transition.
Mark: I’ve met a number of offsite leaders (along with broader building product manufacturers) who seem hell bent on securing leaders from within the sector. Although more than happy to recycle candidates from within, I am an ardent supporter of attracting from a wider talent pool. I feel this lends itself to a new approach to driving improvements and growth and, potentially, at a quicker rate. How have you managed to negate competition from other modular manufacturers whose leaders have lived and breathed offsite for a number of years?
Geoff: It’s taken a little while to understand the market dynamics and who we are up against and how our offers compare – the most important thing for me is understanding what I knew before that was transferable, and what I needed to learn – I think coming into a new part of the market with an open mind is vital.
Mark: Since coming into the group you have taken ownership for the company’s sales strategy. Renowned for their work in the modular education sector historically, how has and will this change for McAvoy moving forward?
Geoff: The business has an excellent track record in Education which we want to continue to grow, whilst also balancing our portfolio within other markets as we grow – we now have strong case studies in Health, Housing, Aviation and Commercial sectors as well to compliment our Education offer – this hopefully demonstrates to clients that we understand their needs and can provide a real solution to meet them.
Mark: Hence your rebranding of the group last year then?
Geoff: We wanted to evolve our brand and build on the good work done previously – the market feedback was that we had a great story but weren’t telling it as well as we could be doing, so the rebrand has focussed on that and we are delighted with the results and the ongoing feedback. It’s also something we will continue to evolve to keep pace with the needs of the market, and also as technology develops.
Mark: Understanding that historically, and wrongly, modular has been seen as “box” manufacturing which arguably suits the education sector, how easy has it been to adapt to the needs of these additional markets?
Geoff: It’s about really understanding the detailed needs of the client in each sector and sub-sector and the regulatory framework in which they operate, whilst also educating clients and consultants to help change perceptions about what can be achieved offsite, and how it can be achieved
Mark: And what projects would you be most proud of in these fledgling sectors?
Geoff: It’s the ones that challenge the perceptions the most – particularly the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital's new Ambulatory Care facility in Cramlington due to scale, speed of progress so far, fitting in with the existing structure so well and the fact that’s 5 miles from where I studied at college is one. Dublin Airport pre-boarding zone because of the open span space created – the largest offsite space in the UK and Ireland as far as we are aware. Joymount, Carrickfergus as it’s our first housing scheme – 40 units comprising 3 bungalows, 25 apartments and 12 houses.
Mark: A major stigma offsite struggles to break is of this almost “portacabin design” view. What is your view on how the sector dispels this myth?
Geoff: I think the projects above help challenge such perceptions. Offsite produces a high quality, in a safe environment, to a known detailed design. The sector has advanced massively in the last few years and I think the momentum is gathering.
Mark: McAvoy has recently been BIM level two certified and has employed virtual reality to engage markets. What led to these pushes and how are you adopting the technology to best suit the market?
Geoff: We were the first offsite manufacturer to be BIM level 2 accredited, and well ahead of the government mandate in April 2016. We used it as a collaboration tool internally and externally to ensure all aspects of the detailed design are working in harmony, that everyone knows they are working to the latest set of drawings and it ensures certainty of what needs manufacturing and delivering when we get to those stages in the project. It also facilitates handing over a detailed package of information to help the client manage their asset. Virtual reality helps bring those buildings to life by visualising what the space will look like and how they will use it.