Developing products and services to meet market demand
A Portakabin case study

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Page 3: External influences driving change and product development

We use the term 'strategic fit' to describe the relationship between an organisation and its environment. Strategic fit involves having the right sort of management (good at decision making) and the ability to recognise customer needs, the right resources (financial, human etc), appropriate technological capability (ability to work with new ideas and technologies), and the products that match customer demand.

In order to 'fit' the organisation and its products to the environment it is important to carry out a SLEPT (Social, Legal, Economic, Political, and Technological) analysis of environmental forces.  In developing Portakabin WardSpace accommodation, a SLEPT analysis revealed the following factors.


The NHS plan notes that 'the most notable change in today's society is the public's own increased expectations about the quality of the delivery of services, whether in the public or private sector'. The Patient's Charter sets out patients' rights. It states that people attending a healthcare facility for assessment, diagnosis, treatment or care can reasonably expect to have:

  • confidential consultation and discussion with those responsible for their treatment
  • total privacy when meeting the requirement for interventions and/or bodily functions
  • a safe, clean, hazard-free environment, with a pleasant ambience.

All of these have implications for building design. The UK also has an ageing population. As a result, the demand for hospital space is continually increasing 'fit' a market worth being in.


New products must comply with all relevant legislation. In developing the Portakabin WardSpace design, Portakabin engineers researched all applicable aspects including air handling (to prevent the spread of airborne diseases) and temperature control to meet hospital requirements. Other considerations included all aspects of health and safety, and fire control regulations.


The resources available to the NHS are finite. The NHS needs facilities that are:

  • technically suitable
  • comfortable for all users
  • cost-effective to build, maintain and use.

Getting this balance right lies at the heart of all evaluations of hospital designs.

One of the key advantages to planners of a modular system like Portakabin WardSpace is that costs can be kept under control because of the certainty of the construction process, with new wards being constructed within a factory environment before delivery and assembly on-site. This contrasts with an outdoor building project based around steel, bricks and mortar, when capital costs can soar as a result of delays due to late delivery of materials or poor weather conditions.


Along with education, health is a key issue for voters, and therefore with politicians. The NHS plan (above) is the government's attempt to revolutionise NHS service provision. The government is investing in solutions that maximise health gain, are people centred and resource effective. All of these have implications for design.

The government's investment also means that money is available for innovative approaches to solving healthcare problems. The government also has a pressing agenda which demands that 7,000 new beds are available by 2004. The Portakabin WardSpace concept was designed to deliver against this agenda because of its speed of construction.


The use of computerised systems to hold, process and transfer patient information both digitally and by video at every point of clinical activity is rapidly becoming a reality. Portakabin WardSpace buildings incorporate a coding system, an integrated communications system that is attached to every nurse, so when a patient 'buzzes' for attention the nearest nurse can attend. Computer write-up points are also supplied in every bay to write up notes in the patient's vicinity, thereby improving efficiency.

Portakabin | Developing products and services to meet market demand