Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Europe Begins Its Home Building Invasion of the US

For years there have been rumors that IKEA or some other company would look at the United States housing market and decide that what the US needs is a good, well-built prefabricated home like the ones built in Europe.

Decades ago the Japanese automakers looked longingly at the lucrative US market and decided what the US needed was a small, high mileage and cheap car. Enter Datsun, Toyota and Honda. At first they imported cars made in Japan but as Americans began to not only accept these strange little cars, we actually started demanding more of them to the point that Japanese companies opened factories here.

I can only imagine how the European home builders have longed to expand their businesses into the world’s largest housing market. They have long stood on our borders watching our profitable industry build homes without the aid of any comprehensive technological platform and at the same time lose market share.

Well folks, Modcoach is breaking the news that our industry has some investors with real building technology and some real insight into the problems of building faster, better and cheaper. Modular housing needs to pay attention or we will go the way of Pontiac, Edsel and Saturn.

Blueprint Robotics, a prefabricated building component manufacturing company with International backing, mainly from Germany, is gearing up for a mid-2016 start. And where would this enterprising European factory begin its invasion?

No place other than the shipyard area of Baltimore, MD. Unlike US companies that enter the prefab and modular housing industry, they are not converting a WWII shipbuilding factory or a 50 year abandoned building into a home building factory.

This is not how the invasion will begin. No, they are building a new 200,000 sq ft state of the art factory complete with CNC cutters, automated machinery and as their name implies…robots. Even though several Canadian companies are using this technology, they haven’t made the investment to open state of the art factories in the US…yet!

And surprise, someone very familiar with our industry is the CEO and Co-Founder of Blueprint Robotics, Jerry Smalley. He just happens to be a partner in Stonington Partners, a real estate developer that specializes in housing in the mid-Atlantic region.

If the US modular housing industry doesn’t begin to dig in and start taking back market share, more European and Scandinavian will begin planning and working on building homes here. The East Coast is not the only place where foreign home builders will invade. Japan, Thailand and China are already making plans to take market share in the West.

All these new invaders will hit our shores with better marketing, better delivery systems and innovative building methods that we have watched them perfect for years over there and have dismissed the same way the big US automakers dismissed the Prius and the Beetle.

Is it too late? NO! Is it too late however, if the US modular housing industry doesn’t begin to jump into what is already the future of home building in the rest of the world? YES!

Like the Native Americans welcomed the Europeans to their shores 500 years ago, we will welcome these new factories with tax incentives and excitement.

Good luck Jerry and “Welcome” Blueprint Robotics.


Anonymous said...

A vertically integrated panelized company partnered with a major REIT commercial developer in the Mid-Atlantic - what's to fear?

Wonder which mid-size tract developer will join the program and train teams in the process for delivery?

Since panelized factories delivered as many homes as modular last year we as a group need to focus like a lazer on developing a message to expand the shrinking market.

BTW the video provides a great explanation of the shortfalls of site construction that can be adapted in our messages

Unknown said...

Isn't that what Unity is trying to push?

With all the trouble modular companies are having shipping anything wider than 13'9" through states (like CT), you'd think that the industry would be rallying around a method of pre-fabricating pieces that can be loaded into a regular flatbed, trucked to the site and put together like building blocks?

Anonymous said...

Misconceptions abound. Although both are factory produced and may be termed modular a "true" modular factory builds modules that are shipped and assembled as units while a "true" panel factory produces several assemblies that are shipped "flat pack" and erected on site.

Yes- Blu Homes and Unity are Flat-pack producers as is Blueprint Robotics. Both we assume will act as vertically integrated entities sending assembly teams to the site for erection whereas modular factories are relying on dealer/builder networks to assemble their units.

Unfortunately, both seem focused on cannabilizing their respective market share instead of focusing on the site built housing market

TN MODULAR said...

Video explanation could be a little shorter on the breakdown of modular vs outdoor stick frame. The idea of new age construction in a controlled computer engineered environment is here to stay gentleman.
The only thing I would like to see is that factory being built in Nashville TN.

All you Northern Modular/PreFab guys cant have all the good toys now...

A little southern hospitality will go along ways to new age conception of engineered built commercial dwellings.

Im in Coach!

Harris - Finish Werks said...

Right in my back yard......

Unknown said...

The panel concept has worked very well for one of the premiere tract home builders in the country, a company called Toll Brothers. Just drive by the Morrisville,PA facility on Route 1 and you see mountains of material being transformed and shipped to Toll Brother projects throughout the mid-Atlantic region. And now this concept can be offered to scattered lot home builders without the restrictions in design and shipping that plagues modular. Jerry will grow this company and take market share. Look for the launch this summer and watch this company deliver quality homes right in your backyard! I am excited.