Does this sound familiar? The detailer is working on a window. They spend time drawing it just right. Then, oftentimes regardless of what they draw, the person who installs windows for a living will ignore the detail and do it the way they normally do it. And that will nearly always be differently than the detailer drew it. In other words, the detailer spent a lot of time drawing the “wrong” detail. The detailer may not even care how the window is installed, as long as it’s the right size and it doesn’t leak. Time could have been saved if the people involved with that window would have collaborated up front.  

Let the expert be the expert, and make the design experience more enjoyable to the architect, general contractor and owners. More effective communication is key, and technology exists that can provide that.

If jobs are not coordinated ahead of time, there is incredible waste when they are produced. Even with coordination there is waste, for instance shipping back and forth. Reduction of waste results in more profit on a job, so it should be a goal for a project – or even a product – to get finished with as little waste as possible.

Companies in the MEP industry are the most advanced sector of construction when it comes to efficiency and reducing waste. They are also more frequent adopters of techniques that have been used in manufacturing for decades. Two of those are prefabrication and modular building processes.

In the convergence of manufacturing and construction, an “assembly line” approach is efficient. You can do more inside the walls of a building first, enabling better collaboration. When insights are shared with product manufacturers so they can improve their products, the advantages of collaboration really begin to be discernable. Building product manufacturers would benefit from communicating more effectively with architects and companies in the AEC realm. They naturally want their product to be specified more often on jobs.

If companies do not adopt updated workflows, manufacturing techniques may be forced on the construction industry in order to cope with some big issues. Those include a shortage of skilled labor, rapid change, increased demand for production, shorter schedules, supply chain issues, and other things they may have no control over. Companies are finding it necessary to be more efficient with fewer people. And they need to make the most of the investment they already have in the people on their team.

Besides waste, safety is another arena where things can be improved in construction. Construction is extremely dangerous, with heavy machinery, manual labor above the ground level and lots of moving parts (and people). A more repeatable process through prefabrication and modular construction can decrease safety risks. These processes can still be improved, but people are learning to take advantage of them and move their companies forward, making the best use of the experts, the design experience, communication, and technology. Tune in to season 4, episode 3 of The AEC Disruptors Podcast, a crossover conversation with Forging Manufacturing, where we discussed using manufacturing techniques in construction.

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