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Life in the NetZero Factory

We talked to Jeremy Pearl, Health and Safety Manager at our Cambridgeshire factory, about life in the factory, his favourite projects and the exciting year ahead for NetZero Buildings.

By manufacturing our buildings off-site in a factory, we are able to achieve a level of precision and efficiency not feasible with traditional on-site builds. This helps us to deliver new buildings that are higher quality, delivered faster and with lower costs – all whilst being kinder to the environment.

We talked to Jeremy Pearl, Health and Safety Manager at our Cambridgeshire factory, about life in the factory, his favourite projects and the exciting year ahead for NetZero Buildings…

What is your role in the factory?

Mainly to identify all risks and any welfare or health and safety issues – and then find solutions to minimise or eliminate these. I do this by consulting the professionals and all operatives to seek their experience and carry out regular checks and inspections. I then produce risk assessments, method statements and standard operating procedures so there is a record of what processes should be followed.

Another role is to advise everyone, from the general labour up to the director level, on how to meet legislation – and I also manage all of the training and apprentices. Within all this, I also need to try to keep to our company ethic of being environmentally responsible, innovative and aware where ever possible.

Collectively, how many years of experience are there within the factory team?

Loads! At management level, Richard Hutchinson, Bill Walker and Matthew Bird have over 45 years between them. In MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing), Paul Mosley has over 10 years. We also have my experience when I’m there which is about 30 years if you include my college time and Andy Tatt has over 20 years in the modular construction field. At operative level, you could easily say another 40 plus years.

What does a typical day in the factory look like?

The operatives arrive at around 7am for a coffee and briefing of what is happening for the day, ready to start the work at 7:30am. They then start their daily tasks, which vary depending on what stage of manufacture the factory is at. It could be anything from manufacturing wall panels from SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels), making the volumetrics (Pods) or carrying out electrical works. If there is not lots of building work to do, then there will be maintenance and other tasks around the factory in preparation for the next project or improving the factory.

Morning break is at 9:30am. If I am there and there is a need, I will use this time to do a bit of training (usually informal as this works better for the operatives). The day usually finishes at about 4pm for the operatives.

The office staff arrive at any time between 7am and 9am depending on what needs to be done. These tasks vary. They do not tend to have a set lunchtime but have breaks to fit in with what they are doing. This works well as it gives a chilled atmosphere and it produces better results from the office staff.

The meeting room is often busy with all sorts of meetings – maybe progress meetings, ones with the health and safety committee or meetings with potential clients or customers. There is also occasionally in-house training held in the meeting room (sometimes carried out by me but other times by outside training organisations). Office staff finish any time from 5pm onwards, depending on when they started and what needs to be done to make sure the targets are met.

Do you have any favourite memories?

Doing the spartan last year with three other members of the factory team was good. I wasn’t employed by NZB at the time but, as a result of the race, I came to the factory to see how it worked – and ended up leaving my college job of 15 years to join NZB so it must have made an impression on me!

Within the factory, nothing stands out in particular. I generally only visit the factory once a week so I’m usually pretty busy. But overall, I do enjoy working at the factory as it’s a good chance to see what’s happening and also good to see how the operatives are. I usually chat with most people when I’m doing my inspections. This is a good way to gauge the general feeling ‘on the ground’.

What is your favourite part of the building process?

Seeing the finished product at the end. I usually do three visits or more on-site throughout the project and always enjoy watching the install and then the final visit when it is near completion. I’m always so impressed at seeing the finished (or near-finished) product and how quickly it goes up.

Do you have any NZB builds that you are particularly proud of?

No particular builds. I’m still impressed every time I see a build being installed on-site – even after seeing over 15 projects this year! I am proud of how the general health and safety has improved over the last year though; this been achieved through the support of all the supervisors at the factory and the site managers.

What is the best project you have worked on for NZB?

I would say Yateley Manor, where I was involved right from the first site survey visits. It was completed ahead of time and below budget and so far, is a very good finished product. We were let down by the bricklayers for the foundations, so I even put a little more than usual into it. I ended up getting my old tools out and spending some time showing that I can still lay bricks and that I can also do all the things I get the operatives to do safely myself.

With lots of exciting things ahead for NZB this year, how is the factory getting ready to support new projects?

It is expanding and recruiting like mad. The main factory was extended last year to allow for growth, we have recently taken on another unit to house the MEP production and the house production is starting to go full steam ahead too.

In order to manage the hopeful growth, we are looking at employing up to 80 extra people to meet demand. This will include extra training and promotion prospects for current employees.

We are also looking at joining up with the local college to start NZB academy. The aim of this is to give invaluable and practical site experience to full-time students at the local colleges. Then if we spot any budding trades or professionals, we can offer them a job with us when they have their qualifications or support them to achieve their qualifications.

NetZero Buildings is now established as a pioneer in the off-site construction sector – delivering high quality, affordable and radically efficient buildings. To find out more, please get in touch today.