I've recently returned from attending this year's World of Modular (WoM) conference in San Antonio, Texas. Organized by the Modular Building Institute, this annual industry trade show attracts anyone connected with, or interested in off-site fabrication.
PCL’s Mark Taylor presenting at this year’s
World of Modular conference in Texas.
Ceilings being assembled in PCL’s prefabrication
Over the last couple of years, interest and attendance have rapidly increased. Over 645 attendees gathered at this year’s event, a marked increase of nearly 100 participants over last year. Although many of those attending are either manufacturers, suppliers or dealers in the modular market sector, we have seen an increase in attendance from clients, consultants and other general contractors from the construction industry.
This year I attended the event with two of my PCL colleagues, including Terry Brickman
, our US National Director of Quality Management. Following a visit to our offsite production facility in Toronto
this past January, Terry and I have become actively engaged in dialogue about how pre-fabrication and off-site construction supports quality, increases efficiency and reduces waste.
One of Terry's mandates in our US districts is to promote and implement Lean construction in our projects. Lean originated in the manufacturing sector and has steadily spread to a variety of other industries, including construction management.
Also known as the Toyota Production Method, Lean is a philosophy that seeks to reduce waste in it's many different forms in order to minimize the amount of work that is considered a non-value add for the customer.
In looking at types of waste, I’m sure you will be able to identify with similar examples on your project sites.
Examples of Lean waste:
- Transport of materials – moving or handling materials too many times
- Inventory - having too much material (raw or finished) on hand
- Motion - people needing to move too much to complete different steps of the same task
- Waiting - for materials or another part of the process to be completed
- Overproduction - making too much of something, leads to wasted material
- Over-processing - doing too much with what we have, over-complicating it
- Defects - quality repair or abandonment
- Underutilization of people - not utilizing the full capacity of the individuals' knowledge, skills, aptitude or creativity
Because our offsite fabrication facility is essentially a manufacturer, there are many opportunities for us to remove waste that would typically be seen on site; allowing us to create a production line with Takt times (the rhythm that means work is constantly flowing at the same speed) that will reduce the amount of transport, motion, or waiting that goes on.
We are working in a controlled environment where we can properly manage our materials and work on a Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery basis, while easily establishing quality assurance (QA) procedures that will limit or remove our defect waste. From our Building Information Modeling
(BIM) we can also see exactly what materials we need and order accordingly. We can also produce piece counts to avoid overproduction and even material processing instructions for our computer numerically controlled (CNC) systems so that we don't over-process our material.
We have intentionally set up our shop to maximize efficiency and are using Lean principles to remove as many of the non-value add activities from our process. As we do this, we are definitely seeing efficiencies in our labour and material usage.
There are many exciting things happening in the world of construction, including Lean, that all point to built off-site solutions being the future of the industry, so it's not surprising that the world is starting to take more notice of modular construction.
This is definitely the way of the future, and I would encourage you to follow Terry's blogs as he moves along the Lean journey for construction.