Weston Group opens its £12m ‘housebuilding factory’ in Braintree

The Braintree Logistics Centre, a new 75,000 ft2

build-off-site and distribution

complex, claimed to be one of the most advanced in the UK construction industry, has been opened by Weston Logistics, part of the housebuilder Weston Group. The “housebuilding factory” is a hybrid

plant that introduces automotive-industry style logistics, as well as assembly and quality control aspects. The £12m centre is located on a high security, 3.5 acre site, and was designed by PRC Architects, Gideon Hillman, Globe Tooling and Weston Group. Constructed over 18 months, the new complex contains a 10,000 ft2

assembly and quality control workspace, as well as 60,000 ft2 5,000 ft2

of offices. The complex currently

has 40 staff, which will be augmented by 60 new logistics division jobs. Weston Group’s residential development

division, Weston Homes, is offering purchasers a range of options to customise the specification of their home, including choice of kitchen units, colours, worktops and upstands, and a choice of bathroom suites, wall and floor tiles, colours and finishes. Buyers are also offered a choice of flooring such as wood or carpets, or different colours and finishes, to living areas, kitchens and bedrooms. The storage centre holds the components

required to build a house or apartment, including flooring, cladding, wall tiles, panelling material, kitchen components and bathroom components. When sourcing these materials and components, the supply chain is closely monitored and tracked via

WWW.HBDONLINE.CO.UK of warehousing space, and

GPS from an on-site control centre. Items are then barcoded, stored until needed, then retrieved, assembled and quality control tested, packaged as per the homebuyer’s individual specification choices, then shipped to the group’s different residential development sites. The centre has the capacity to handle

1,200 ‘intermodal’ container shipments per year. Three dock-leveller bays allow for the unloading of materials on pallets, and an advanced storage and retrieval system (ASRS) barcodes and stores items in a 60,000 ft2


with 27 storage isles, which can hold over 8,000 palettes and other materials. The computer controlled, wire-guided

system fitted to the floor and storage isles allows for the computer-assisted Toyota fork-lift trucks in the complex to operate safely and precisely at extremely high- speeds. Weston Group claimed that deliveries can be unloaded, computer-coded and stored in as little as 15 minutes, compared to an average of three hours previ- ously, and levels of transit and storage damage have been dramatically reduced. At the shipping bay, data on customer’s

individual specification choice is downloaded onto a hand-held barcode and customer-order scanner, creating a ‘pick-list’ for items to be retrieved from the storage bay and assembly centre. The manufacturing, assembly and quality-

control workshop has been designed around a series of conveyor belts and stillages-on- wheels, which transport items to processing machines, as well as to precision engineering

tools and site assembly plants. Raw materials can then be cut and assembled in the workshop into items such as bedroom wardrobes, bathroom vanity units and bathroom cabinets. Kitchen and bathroom components can be quickly assembled and transported on the ‘stillages’. The workshop also enables water taps and kitchen and bathroom basins to be assembled, fully tested for water leaks, flow and temperature control, and barcoded once quality control-approved. The bespoke customer order, typically a

, 26 ft high pallet racking complex,

kitchen pack, bathroom pack and other fittings and finishes, is then packaged and shipped to the group’s development sites. The complex can supply up to 60 plots per day at maximum capacity, but current plans are for Braintree to help deliver up to 5,000 new homes per annum. Bob Weston, chief executive of Weston

Group, commented on the complex: “The new Braintree Logistics Centre is a highly advanced distribution and build-off-site centre, and represents the future of the volume housebuilding industry. “Within the next 10 years technology

will allow for new homes to be fully manufactured off-site by robots and computer-assisted engineering tools, customer specification choices fully automated, and factory-made components then built on-site using machines like a highly advanced Lego system. “This step change will help enhance site

safety, quality control and automotive-like precision. Our factory is another pioneering part of the process.”

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