Manufacturing partnership tackles housebuilding crisis with a revolutionary commercial infrastructure

Manufacturing and robotics firms are joining forces with Innovate UK to develop a revolutionary new piece of commercial infrastructure to produce commercial roof tiles – the factory in a box.

CNC Robotics Ltd, the UK’s leading machining robotics integrator, and SunScape Systems Ltd (SSL), a manufacturer of innovative roof slates for housebuilding based in Penarth, are working together develop the new system after securing funding from Innovate UK.

The joint venture will implement a dynamic and repeatable ‘SMART’ / Industry 4.0-aligned manufacturing solution in the form of a Modular Automated Roof Tile Factory. The modular factory will be a plug-and-play ‘factory in a box’, specifically built and calibrated offsite to manufacture SSL’s Carapace Slate, a patent-protected, bio-composite snap-fit roof tile system. Carapace Slate is installed 90% quicker than the current state-of-the-art; increasing build speed and contributing to the growth of construction.

CNC Robotics and SSL’s are working together to develop a ‘factory in a box’ that can be built and calibrated offsite, and then made ready to be deployed to any location capable of housing its footprint. Production will be monitored and operated through advanced cloud-based and IoT technology.

Jason Baker, Founder of CNC Robotics Ltd, said: “This is a great example of how SMEs can work collaboratively to solve a national issue. The Factory in a Box utilises infrastructural innovation and close teamwork to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.”

Martyn Lucas & Amy Sheldrake, Founders of SunScape Systems Ltd added: “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with CNCR to deliver a repeatable high volume manufacturing solution capable of sustainable growth in times when the UK roofing industry needs it most”

UK construction is in the midst of a continued period of growth, largely stimulated by an ongoing government policy to build an additional 300,000 houses per year beyond 2025. Given the scale of the UK roofing market, a suitable manufacturing infrastructure is required to produce Carapace at volume if it is to address the deficit between construction output and available labour. Traditional, methods of production have led to an alarming supply deficit which is challenging government policy to alleviate the housing crisis.

Dr Rick Holland, Innovate UK’s Regional Manager for North West England, said: “Throughout the eleven years that Innovate UK has funded innovation projects, we have consistently seen UK businesses excel at innovating to modernise the construction industry. This project will apply the latest advances in manufacturing to the task of developing a new, high quality construction product that will improve the industry’s productivity.

“UK manufacturing is rapidly advancing, using new technologies and creativity, and Innovate UK is pleased to fund and support this collaboration between two firms in North West England and Wales, to accelerate this valuable application of modern technology.”

Sensor City worked with CNC Robotics earlier in the year through the LCR 4.0 programme, to assist with increasing the connectivity between their digital and automated systems.

As a result of their involvement with LCR 4.0, CNC Robotics found the need to expand their team. They have recently created two new roles within their business and have now employed a ‘Systems & Applications Engineer’.

In addition, the design skills offered by the LCR 4.0 team at Sensor City has provided CNC Robotics with monitoring technology which is a valuable asset for them to integrate digital and automated systems.

Notes to Editors

Construction relies on the skills and volume of its workforce more than most, but an ageing workforce plus cultural shifts that disfavour manual trades has led to a 7% labour deficit in the roofing industry, despite exponential growth each year.

Recent reports by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have revealed severe building material shortages in the housebuilding supply chain, resulting in waiting times of up to six months for roof tiles. This can partly be attributed to antiquated production facilities and the reluctance of large manufacturers to invest in new equipment and infrastructure in an industry which is commonly perceived to be historically conservative and averse to change.

Given the scale of the UK roofing market, a suitable manufacturing infrastructure is required to produce Carapace at volume if it is to address the deficit between construction output and available labour. Traditional, now antiquated methods of production have led to an alarming supply deficit which is challenging government policy to alleviate the housing crisis.

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