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Product Platform Rulebook: Defining the direction of a platform-based future

Platform construction systems are by no means a new topic of conversation in the construction sector. As a key evolution of modern methods of construction (MMC) and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), significant voices across government and industry have been calling for platforms to become mainstream for many years. The Construction Playbook has significantly ramped up this call to action, outlining a firm commitment to develop an organisational strategy which will aggregate and standardise demand, to drive the adoption of platform approaches.

Crucially, the Playbook shone a light on the barriers that construction companies have historically faced around the adoption of platform construction systems, namely the lack of standardisation that exists around construction. Ultimately, social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals will continue to predominantly be built in traditional ways until the industry has access to fully interoperable, standardised sets of manufacturable components that can be used to create such buildings and support a sustainable pipeline of opportunity.

How will a Product Platform Rulebook help?

Platforms support market exchanges. It is in the Government’s best interest to support the broadest and most open platform approach to keep barriers to entry low, incentives for innovation high, and to encourage effective competition.

But for platforms to be successfully adopted at scale, an extensive ecosystem of suppliers, manufacturers and assemblers is required to underpin the delivery of infrastructure and meet the demand generated. Already, a pipeline of £35bn over five years has been identified that could be delivered in part or in full by a platform approach. Therefore, the market needs a way to establish and adhere to good principles of governance to ensure the sustainability and growth of these ecosystems.

Principles to regulate by

Given the central role that platforms are expected to play in complying with the Construction Playbook, policy makers need clear principles to decide when, how and what to regulate. This requires the ability to understand barriers to entry and any systemic issues preventing effective competition within the marketplace.

To achieve this, rules are required to enable (as a minimum):

  • Interfaces and interoperability, to encourage competition and resilience;
  • Consistent and reliable governance, to foster trust in the multi-sided market; and
  • Implementation detail, to make platforms easier to use reliably.

That’s where the Product Platform Rulebook comes in. A collection of hierarchical principles, processes and information, the Rulebook sets out the basics such as what platforms are, how they are implemented and governed, and go into further detail on how the interoperability of platform elements (such as physical products, design processes, or manufacturing organisations) can be achieved and where and how these reusable elements are accessed, used and updated.

Ben Carlisle is the Global Practice Leader for DfMA at engineering, management and development consultancy Mott MacDonald, and is a programme lead for the Platform Design Programme at the Hub. An experienced chartered engineer, he has worked on major infrastructure projects in the UK, Asia and Australia over the past 15 years.  Ben is a keen proponent of improving the way in which projects and programmes are delivered, particularly through the use of DfMA and the better use of information and technology.