Approx. read time 6.5 mins
A blast into the past…
During my latter years in school, I fell in love with Technical Drawing, Graphical Communication as it was later known.
It was at this point that I knew that I wanted to be a Draughtsman within engineering as opposed to an Architect within Construction, little did I know that I would become an Architectural Technician in the Construction Industry and later become the MD of my own Off-site Construction Company!
Upon leaving school in 1988 and four days after my 16th Birthday I started out to ‘work for a living’ and H.E.T.A (Humberside Engineering and Training Association) on Sutton Fields in Hull was my first experience of work in the outside world.
Within 3 months I had been placed with a large manufacturer of Excavators and Cranes, Priestman Limited. Currently, CAD (Computer Aided Design) in those days was just behind ‘Etch-a-sketch’ in terms of technology, therefore, an A0 drawing board, ‘T’ square, ink pens, stencils and razor blades were the tools of the draughtsman. I still remember the strong smell of ammonia from the copying machine, as a junior, it was my responsibility to do most of the copying 😪
Out of the blue (from my perspective) 6 months in, the company went into administration, fortunately for me I took employment in my home town with a small engineering firm. No more than 3 months into my time there a new member of staff joined who happened to mention an ex-colleague of his was looking for a draughtsman, in the ‘Modular Building Industry’! One interview and one notice period later I found myself working for a Modular Building Company called Newspace Ltd in Brandesburton, East Yorkshire.
How little they knew about modular buildings!
Modular Buildings they all said, you’ll be drawing boxes all day, how dull! How wrong they all were!
Through my 5 years working for Newspace I had experienced a lot, from drawing the boxes they all said I would, to being involved in the design of the Queen Elizabeth Stand at Windsor Racecourse, out of ‘Modular Boxes’ 😉, to meeting my wife of 22 years.
Newspace was a great time in my life, working for a family-owned business, learning about the ‘Modular’ industry and ultimately starting me on a career path to where I am now.
The Modular industry at this point was going through the recession of the early nineties, money became tight for the owners and reluctantly they had to put the Company into administration. Here we go again I thought, whatever next.
After a brief time with another Modular Company, Pyramid, another opportunity arose, this time now more experienced I secured the position of Design Manager for Britspace based in Gilberdyke, East Yorkshire. A larger yet still another family owned business who had a gained a good reputation in the ‘Modular’ industry for delivering schools, offices, hotels, student accommodation and buildings for a well-known fast food outlet. In the mid to late 90’s CAD was more prevalent in the industry, gone were drawings boards and ammonia copiers, in came Digitizers, Monitors, mice and inkjet plotters.
Throughout my time at Britspace I had expanded my knowledge not only of the product and the design of but also the commercial aspect and procurement.
My love for drawings was still in me but I had now been drawn to the commercials, numbers which to this day I have a strange ability to recall long numbers, sequences of letters (such as Wi-Fi passwords) and perform large calculations in my head. Someone once described me as ‘Rainman’ 😂.
The next step…
My next step-change within the industry came around through a meeting with another modular company who didn’t manufacture but wanted to partner with a manufacturer to build their own product. This (design) meeting with the owner of the business led to a separate meeting to discuss the potential of becoming their Commercial Manager, what an opportunity to follow my new found love of the commercial aspect of the industry.
Another notice period later I am now working for another family-owned business, Wraith Accommodation based in Torksey, Lincolnshire this time in the capacity of the Commercial Manager heading up the commercial and design function of the company. As well as the move into the commercial aspect the company specialised in the hire of temporary modular buildings as well as sales of permanent, another string to the bow, more knowledge of the industry gained as well as a grounding in financial control.
By the mid-2000’s I am promoted to the position of Commercial Director and back again working alongside my wife Amanda who is Wraith Accommodation’s Sales Director.
We were flying, that is the only way I could describe it. The quality product, the accessibility to finance and the ‘Dream Team’ were in full flow, throughout our time within Wraith we had quadrupled their hire fleet and were consistently over 90% utilisation making the company very attractive and well placed within the modular building market sector. Ripe for the picking which is exactly what happened in 2007.
Food for thought
The next few months gave us time to think about our next move. Could we do it for ourselves? What are the pro’s and cons? What had we got to lose, apart from good salaries, cars, Director privileges? We’d both be starting from scratch.
No brainer, by the end of the year we had resigned, developed a business plan, sourced premises and registered our company name;
MODULE-AR LIMITED was born.
What a transformation over the next 11 years, an established business with a broad customer base covering numerous market sectors with both permanent and temporary accommodation solutions.
Commencing from a first-floor small open plan office with small kitchenette and toilets we embarked on our journey, we knew it was going to be hard but not as hard as the first 12 months turned out to be.
From asking, who’s emptying the bins, to sweeping out buildings in time for handover to the customer ready for the new school terms all combined with starting a business at the start of one of the biggest financial crashes seen in modern times.
Looking back, it could have easily all gone down the pan in those first 12 months if we had not been as determined to succeed as a couple.
1 year into a new venture
12 months later, after blood, sweat and tears had been shed we needed to expand the office to accommodate additional staff etc. this expansion came in the form of a move across the road from our existing premises to a more modern duplex office. We were growing despite the financial market situation.
By this time, we were starting to get our name out in the market place and previous customers of Wraith Accommodation were rewarding our loyalty and service record by giving us the opportunity to continue where we left off. Brilliant, if only we can obtain finance in a world that was skint.
Another twist was about to be encountered, it was amazing that we had secured such great temporary hire projects within our first year of trading, but what were we going to do with the buildings once they had been off hired? We had a 60m2 square office down a cobbled lane in the centre of a town, where were we going to put over 1,000m2 of building?
A search ensued and through several contacts we had, we managed to secure a 3-acre site suitable to hold the hire fleet modules the month before the building was removed from its temporary location 😅.
Six months later we had given notice on our office premises, built a modular office facility at the 3-acre storage facility and relocated to where we are based today. We continued to develop and broaden the customer base working with blue-chip companies as well as SME’s with whom we have long-lasting relationships.
Late 2012 and the recession is still biting, and some significant decisions were needed to be made namely, we need to start manufacturing our own buildings, our third-party supply chain route was having an impact on our success rate. We had no alternative but to go for it!
Turned out to be the best decision we made
From a basic specification 60m2 classroom to a high specification 3000m2 office building to meet with the highest of quality standards we had the ability to do it all. What a way we had come since 2008 from 3 people in a 30m2 rented office to by 2016 we had 15 employees in the offices and 20 fulltime employed Off-site manufacturing tradesmen.
10 years’ later
January 2018, our 10-year anniversary, a time to rebrand, a time to modernise or die. Our Marketing department, yes Marketing department 😉 were tasked to rebrand the business and set us apart from others in the industry. We were becoming a player in the industry where we were more than just a designer and manufacturer of modular buildings we were becoming a Main Contractor in our own right offering full turnkey projects, an all-round service for our customers from initial feasibility studies through to handover, a real cradle to grave experience. An introduction of top tier contractor employees into the team brought in the concept of a Main Contractor with a Factory!
M-AR Off-site became a reality in early 2018, a new image, modern and innovative to reflect the business and where it was heading. ‘Building relationships before buildings’ became our strapline, partnering was key through excellent customer service, a trait we have throughout the business culture.
A start-up business of 3 individuals had now become a team of 25 strong, talented and experienced professionals with a 35 strong team of experienced Off-site manufacturing tradesmen on a site of 6-acres.
We set our vision to become ‘The most admired partner for realising predictable project outcomes’, and this is where we are heading.
Time for reflection
There are times in your life when you look back and think how did I get to where I am now, it is when you look back you see how events have shaped your future but not only that, how people in your life shape your future.
Without the opportunities that came my way through hard work and determination, it is the true support of my Wife Amanda and her passion for what she does that has kept my love for the Off-site Industry.
Today we have successfully completed many projects, on-time and on-budget with our most recent modular housing projects completed last year. Take a look at our showcase videos below or a selection of the best here including an off-site modular KFC restaurant
Richard Onslow Court in Shrewsbury – https://youtu.be/xTn99WRu7Jk
Ward Court in Brighouse – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6s5fZylViQ