Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, construction of the new prison at Wellingborough by Kier and supported by PCE has continued safely, utilising the benefits of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Ministers at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) assessed the new prison at Wellingborough as a high-priority project in supporting the department’s commitment to delivering modern and decent prison places, which enabled construction to continue if it was safe to do so.
The PCE HybriDfMA systems MMC solution with offsite manufacture of structural precast concrete and steel components, forms a kit of parts manufactured at a number of different factories for delivery to site for construction by a highly trained multi-disciplinary workforce. This workforce, much smaller in number than would be required for a more traditional building approach, proved the MMC approach to be highly beneficial during the pandemic lockdown. The collaborative digital approach by both Kier and PCE, working within Government COVID-19 guidelines, facilitated control measures and procedures for the flow of information from design through to the various manufacturers together with just in time logistics for onsite construction ensured a high degree of accuracy and quality at all stages of the process.
PCE’s manufacturing production quality team worked with the Kier supply chain component manufacturers to ensure that all of the new government requirements concerning Social Distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures necessary could be safely implemented with minimal disruption to product supply and without any reduction in the high manufacturing quality standards required by the project. On site construction processes potentially presented the biggest challenge for the PCE team members who were used to the offloading and erection of large and heavy precast concrete and structural steel components often working in close proximity to each other. Right at the start of the lockdown, when the PCE onsite staff and operatives were naturally concerned about their own personal risk of COVID-19 infection and requirements of working safely in a Socially Distanced manner, PCE’s Managing Director Nickie Brown and Construction Director Karl Hubbard based themselves on site, not just in an overseeing managerial role, but working as members of the site operative construction team.
For Nickie and Karl working ‘on the tools’ for a number of weeks was not a new experience, both having started as site labourers for PCE some 20 years previously and progressed by PCE’s training schemes and personal development opportunities, key cornerstones of the companies PCE Way, through the company to senior management and their current positions. Both were thus able to quickly assess and make the necessary changes to what had been standard PCE site working processes, working closely in agreement with Main Contractor, Kier, to ensure site construction could continue safely in all respects whilst maintaining the high-quality standards required. During the period from the commencement of the lockdown on Monday March 23rd to Friday June 12th the PCE site team received over 1,400 product delivery vehicles from which they erected over 6,100 components. A major benefit of the Offsite Manufacture approach during the pandemic lockdown was that although each factory took differing time periods to implement their COVID-19 strategies to get back to full production, together with Kier preplanning the day to day site construction programme enabled deliveries of components from operating factories to maintain site progress.
Nickie Brown, PCE’s Managing Director commented:
‘Obviously no one wanted the pandemic but it has shown to us that our approach to MMC was inherently beneficial to maintain not only the site construction process, but as near to normal business as usual for PCE in a safe manner for all our staff and those of our partnering companies. All members of the relatively small but highly skilled site team at the Wellingborough project worked together to quickly develop best site working practices to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 gave us. 'It was good for Karl and I to have the opportunity to get back to our roots, getting our gloved protected hands dirty so to speak, working alongside the people at the sharp end of our business, sharing their and our concerns and overcoming them together. The experience has enabled us to develop what we learnt and achieved during this time at Wellingborough for use also on our other projects and we will be further implementing the lessons learnt to ensure an even more effective business across all its operations as our company develops in the future.’
Aerial photography courtesy of ProDroneWorx.