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As Competition Heats Up, Offsite Prefabrication Becomes a Contractor’s Secret Weapon

Construction

Reposted with permission from constructionexec.com, August 1, 2019, all rights reserved. Copyright 2019

In order to be successful in today’s competitive environment, contractors need to drive efficiency and productivity throughout the entire project lifecycle. Faced with the ongoing challenges of rising costs and a lack of skilled labor, companies are being forced to do more with less. And, they are expected to do this without sacrificing their quality of work.

Prefabrication, or modular construction, has become a popular method for reducing cost and increasing efficiency. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey & Associates report, using modular construction has the potential to deliver some construction projects up to 50% faster than traditional construction methods.

With this increased efficiency as a result of prefabrication, the question is this: should prefabrication be done on or offsite?

THE STATE OF PREFABRICATION

In the past, offsite prefabrication was a challenge due to the communication gap between traditional paper-based models and what was actually happening on the jobsite, which led to more work and expense. Often, data was not up to date or was lost in translation between the field and the office, which led to expensive rework and excessive lag time. In addition, having extra equipment and materials on the jobsite created safety hazards and utilized valuable floor space that could be maximized for onsite construction instead.

The digital transformation and integration of new technology has made offsite prefabrication more practical and cost-effective than ever before. The ability to integrate information and share accurate data in real time has made offsite prefabrication the preferred approach.

Manufacturing the necessary materials of a construction project offsite saves time, improves quality and significantly increases efficiency and productivity. Since offsite fabrication takes place in a factory-like, structured environment, all the complications and delays caused by working on a busy construction site are eliminated.

BENEFITS OF OFFSITE PREFABRICATION

Compared to traditional onsite methods, prefabricating modules offsite is faster, more efficient and of higher quality. Offsite fabrication pulls a lot of labor from the jobsite, physically leaving more room for onsite workers to move around and do their jobs. Combined with smart infrastructure and logistics planning, this can create significant efficiencies on a previously crowded and chaotic jobsite.

The work is also performed more efficiently in a fabrication shop than in the field, which reduces cost. Much of this efficiency and speed is due to automation, machinery and the assembly line process, which can produce layouts, cuts and welds faster than is possible in the field. It can take just seconds for plans to be updated and for changes to be communicated to all stakeholders. If an item is damaged or needs replacement, an offsite fabrication facility is more likely to have sufficient replacements available so they won’t need to delay work waiting for supplies to be delivered.

Fabricating materials ahead of time offsite cuts costs, reduces waste and increases a company’s bottom line. But in order to experience the full benefits of this process in production, a seamless workflow from the front office to the shop floor is needed.

CONSTRUCTIBLE CONTENT IS KEY

While offsite prefabrication is becoming more widely embraced, truly maximizing its benefits requires access to real-time, accurate data that is shared between various stakeholders and between field, fabrication facility and office. Speed modeling in high level of detail (LOD) is now a common practice with both preconstruction and design teams taking advantage of the wealth of managed content that is readily available. Managed design content often goes beyond just precise geometries to include critical constructible attributes such as height, weight, installation requirements and material pricing, part numbers and more. When all of the components come together and form the model or system, it can be built in the real world without the need for reinterpretation or rework.

Constructible content simplifies the development of comprehensive models for each trade and makes construction data more useful in feeding downstream work processes. From the desktop where the designer sits, to the fabrication center, to the mobile devices and total stations on the jobsite, and back again—it creates a virtuous circle of shared knowledge that helps project teams work better together and to benefit from improved inter-team dynamics.

Plans and models designed for constructibility allow the team to automatically transfer production information from the model to a firm’s fabrication systems and produce only what’s needed for the job, thus eliminating waste.

CLOSING THE COMMUNICATION GAP

In an efficient constructible process, all project phases and trades are connected and able to collaborate in real time. Breaking down traditional silos ensures efficient communication and coordination among all key stakeholders and ensures that project models can be prefabricated and seamlessly installed.

By eliminating the communication gaps and enabling real time collaboration between the office and the field, offsite prefabrication can be a game changer in today’s competitive environment.

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