The Benefitsof Prefabrication
Installation of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems can require meticulous attention to detail and precise coordination with multiple trades. The prefabrication of multi-trade racking systems allows multiple mechanical components to be constructed in an offsite temperature-controlled environment (Pipe Fabrication Shop, Plumbing Fabrication Shop, Sheet Metal Fabrication Shop, Industrial Services Fabrication Shop, Fire Protection Fabrication Shop). Offsite prefabrication also eliminates the buildup of materials onsite allowing more trades to work productively and significantly reduces material-handling time.
If your construction company isn’t yet taking full advantage of offsite prefabrication, you’re leaving money on the table. And, in an industry with notoriously thin margins and stiff competition, that’s a serious situation.
Most likely, this isn’t news to you. Offsite multi-trade prefabrication isn’t a brand new development in the construction world. It is, however, more practical and cost-effective than ever before. If you’ve considered incorporating it into your workflow in the past, but couldn’t justify the cost of setting it up or the effort of outsourcing it to another company, it’s time to look again. And, if you’ve never tried it before, now is definitely the time to learn why offsite prefabrication is a game-changer for your firm.
- Typical overhead work in the field, including welding, is performed at a more ergonomic level
- Superior lighting and ventilation conditions
- Ample room to move around modules and install ceiling elements
- Reduced tripping hazards with a clean and organized space
- 360 degree of accessibility to multi-trade components
- Typical onsite construction activities are conducted in a temperature-controlled facility
LOWER LABOR COSTS
- Offsite construction minimizes trade bottlenecks, reducing and eliminating overtime and off-hour wages
- Reduced scrap by ordering components to exact lengths required
- Less waste reduces the costs spent on materials, handling, and transportation costs
OVERALL FACILITY IMPROVEMENT
- Reduce above ceiling “clutter” with prefabricated racking systems
Last year, we completed over 3,000 HVAC and plumbing construction projects. 100% were problem-free.
The concept of building “modules” at offsite facilities and shipping them to the jobsite for installation isn’t new. However, in most circumstances, it wouldn’t save time or money over the course of a job. Instead, it would often lead to more work and expense because there was a communication gap between the blueprints everyone was using and what was actually happening at the jobsite.
To ensure a given pipe or conduit fits exactly where it needs to, tolerances need to be as tight as 1/32 of an inch — or tighter for some jobs. So, if anything at all had changed at the jobsite, it brought into question whether the prefabricated module was going to fit. Often, it was up to the welders and pipefitters to figure out a way to make it work, or the prefab pieces had to be scrapped and completely remade.
So, what has changed?
Today, it takes just seconds for plans to be updated and for changes to be communicated to all stakeholders: designer, fabrication facility, GC, owner, and jobsite. Additionally, as 3D digital modeling surpasses traditional paper plans and mobile technology as well as augmented and mixed reality technology evolves, it is far easier to ensure everyone is looking at the same thing at the same time. The communication gap has been essentially closed and the lag time that used to doom prefab orders to the scrap pile is all but eliminated.
As a result, prefabrication has become more than just a “nice to have” option. It’s rapidly become a “must have” that clients, GCs and other subs expect. With the practical challenges met, offsite manufacturing saves time, saves money, improves quality, and makes the whole job easier and more efficient.
There are three main ways offsite manufacturing accomplishes these benefits. Compared to traditional onsite methods, prefabricating modules offsite is faster, more efficient, and of higher quality:
The factory-like, structured environment of an offsite fabrication facility tends to eliminate many of the complications and slowdowns that come with working on a busy construction site.
The machinery and tools workers use can be larger, of higher quality, automated and faster because it doesn’t need to be transportable to and around a crowded jobsite. Additionally, the people running those machines tend to become faster and more efficient because they’re honing a particular skill over a period of time rather than jumping from one urgent need to the next.
Unlike the jobsite — where space is at a premium — an offsite fabrication facility will have room to stock sufficient spare parts so work won’t be delayed waiting on machine downtime.
Offsite fabrication has the potential to pull labor from the jobsite, leaving more room for onsite workers to do their jobs. As long as this is combined with smart infrastructure and logistics planning, it creates incredible efficiencies on what used to be a crowded and chaotic jobsite.
This effect naturally extends to the ability for more efficient job scheduling. When you’re turning out modules and spools at a fixed rate from the prefabrication plant and delivering them on schedule, scheduling installation becomes much easier and more predictable. Everyone at the site knows what to expect and when, so it promotes a more fixed and efficient schedule.
As noted above, the controlled environment of an offsite fabrication facility lends itself to higher quality equipment. Therefore, a higher-quality product can be produced. Joints, equipment and systems are tested at the offsite fabrication plant for failure as part of the QA/QC process. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to carry out as rigid a QA/QC process onsite.
Tolerances at an offsite facility will need to be higher than those required onsite since finished modules need to be shipped to the jobsite. In many cases, arrangements are made for inspectors and regulators to visit the prefabrication facility to handle inspections prior to shipment, since they’re able to do so more quickly and effectively under those conditions.
So, no doubt you can see why offsite prefabrication is such an important strategy for the modern construction company to pursue. Contact an Ahern representative for more information on modular prefabrication for your project.
Our actual project costs have averaged within 2.5% of the original estimates for the last 15 years.