Construction: Swimming against the tide

The UK construction industry has certainly suffered a bad rap in recent years. While Britain’s corporate sector has earned a glowing reputation for slickness and innovation around the world – particularly in areas such as financial services and technology – the building industry has, for the most part, endured something of a public relations nightmare.

Construction’s self destruction

Slow to embrace innovation and change, construction companies have been dogged by talk of ‘cowboy builders’, safety scares and frequent budget overruns. While much of this criticism can be written off as media hyperbole, it’s fair to say that the industry has at times been its own worst enemy.

Weak productivity levels since the early 1990s, compared to those of the wider economy, have led to slowing profits and, in turn, the false economy of reducing investment in training staff and in R&D innovation. Instead, companies have increasingly relied on sub-contractors and outsourcing models, resulting in diminished knowledge bases and longer networks of organisations.

As the distance between clients and those undertaking the work has widened, the customer service model has deteriorated. In particular, poor project management and bloated supply chains have given rise to the normalisation of delays and costly budget overruns.

A recent research report by the consultancy firm McKinsey suggests that, across asset classes, larger construction projects typically finish up 80% over budget, and on average run 20% over their allotted time-scales.

While this phenomenon is by no means unique to the UK, Britain’s contractors have come to be seen as the worst of a bad bunch.

A dynamic partnership driving success

Although the introduction of new technical processes, such as BIM and modular building techniques, has started to drive progress at a top level in the industry, SME builders unable to afford expensive new technologies have continued to fall behind other industries.

However, at Finch Lockerbie, a boutique supplier of construction and refurbishment services with a focus on London prime residential, we have been able to buck that trend. The platform for the company’s success has been the partnership between highly driven millennial entrepreneur, Jacob Lorek, and seasoned property industry veteran, Greg Bell.

Raised in Poland’s industrial heartland, Lorek found his way into the UK construction industry, working his way up from on site to a business development role for a small, Hampshire-based outfit. It was here that he learnt the ropes – or more accurately, learnt how he could stop the rope fraying.

Having taken the decision to launch Finch Lockerbie in 2013, the firm’s first multi-million pound contract came in 2014 with the refurbishment of a seven-storey Grade II listed townhouse on London’s historic Old Queen Street bordering St James’ Park.

Forward, lean

It was on that site that the partnership between Lorek and Bell was forged, with the latter’s 30 years in international property adding an extra layer of experience and finesse to our operations.

“By the time a graduate finally makes it onto a building site in Poland their level and skill is vastly superior to their Western European counterpart. The importance associated with practical trades is something this country lost many years ago.”

At the heart of Finch Lockerbie’s DNA is a dedication to the principles of lean construction, minimising waste and maximising value across each phase of the project lifecycle.

Materials and resources are closely monitored, and the use of vehicles on site kept to a minimum, ensuring a low carbon footprint.

Key to this model is a highly-trained workforce that relies heavily on a dedicated in-house team of joiners, carpenters, bricklayers and other skilled craftsmen.

Most employees hail from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, where the teaching of practical trades is often vastly superior to that of the UK.

Their work is supported by an intimate network of industry professionals that includes architects, surveyors and interior designers, ensuring maximum quality is applied to every finishing touch.

A future-proof personal touch

As the business gains momentum new revenue streams are being created. Working closely with its partners, Finch Lockerbie is expanding increasingly into the development space, helping investors take advantage of critical demand for new residential space across London and the South East.

With the construction industry as a whole struggling to carve out a path for itself in the modern economic landscape, we at Finch Lockerbie are having little trouble finding a place in the market and look to keep on swimming as others flounder in choppy waters.

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