Robots to ramp up Sisk margins in productivity push

Aaron Morby 2 years ago
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John Sisk & Son is on a major productivity drive with plans to buy an offsite manufacturing business and deploy block and bricklaying robots.

John Sisk CEO brings in digital and robotic technology to raise site productivity
John Sisk CEO brings in digital and robotic technology to raise site productivity

The move will be used to support its fast-growing build to rent business, which helped to lead a 70% recovery in UK revenue to £323m last year.

Stephen Bowcott, CEO of John Sisk & Son, said that the UK business was back on track after two challenging years at the building division, and generated a £3.2m pre-tax profit in 2018.

He expects margins to rise to 2-3% next year on the back of a strong forward order book, 90% full for this year and 60% booked for 2020.

Announcing group results, Bowcott said that the Sisk was now focused on raising productivity.

He said: “Already we have increased productivity by 15% by investing £4m in digital systems.

“We are hoping to finalise a deal to secure a 2-D offsite business shortly that will be targetting buildings of up to 8-storeys.”

He said that Sisk also aimed to bring robot technology to sites for block, brick and manual handling.

The first block laying robot will be trialled shortly in London at developer Quintain’s big Wembley Park scheme.

Sisk is also close to moving forward with plans to buy in small-scale bricklaying robots after searching the globe for the right technology.

Bowcott said: “We have seen great growth in build to rent and see this as a sector that offers a great deal of future potential, so we are investing in raising performance for clients.”

Sisk is now tagging assets for BIM as it plans to expand its build offer to include 5-year maintenance services.

“This will involve fitting sensors to buildings to make them cognitive so we can closely monitor when they are feeling sick or breaking down,” said Bowcott.

Result for the main Sicon Group – holding company for Sisk’s construction and construction-related activities in Ireland, the UK and a number of international markets – were also strong with revenue up a quarter to €1.17bn generating €28m pre-tax profit.

Year-end cash stood at nearly £190m.

Bowcott also defended the firm’s payment record after being bounced out of the Government’s prompt payment charter.

He said Sisk had strong cash reserves and paid 95% of invoices to terms.

Bowcott said: “Our problem is the charter measures a £1 invoice in the same way as a £1m invoice – it’s a measure of volume, not value.

“In our rail business, this presents a real problem because we are processing large volumes of small value invoices with the inevitable invoice errors that arrive from our subcontractors. This has skewed the data.”

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