The Emergence of Pre-Fabrication & Its Role in Productivity Improvement
By Sammy Geroulis, Project Manager for AMEND Consulting LLC
Prefabrication is not a new activity; in fact, nearly 95 percent of construction industry players utilize it in some way, with more than two-thirds of these firms engaged in the practice for the last five-plus years. However, McGraw-Hill research has found only 37 percent of this sampling to be currently employing these actions at a "high level" (i.e., on more than half of current projects)1. Though the concept of producing/assembling large batch building components off site has existed since the early 1900s, such practices have often battled against stigmas of "cheapness" or "poor quality" – despite proving to be a key component behind the swift erection of many world-class superstructures over the last century.
In truth, prefabrication directly impacts key industry productivity metrics including project scheduling, safety, cost control, quality and waste elimination. Firms defined as operating at a "high level" have identified the strategic use of prefabrication as a key customer service driver and necessary element of competitive edge maintenance. Some of these benefits are expounded upon below:
Shorter project schedule
Sixty-six percent of the surveyed population reported a noticeable reduction in project schedule, with 35 percent realizing a time savings of more than four weeks. This benefit is expressly manifested in a firm’s ability to more easily stack various project schedules.
While prefabricated materials can cost less, cost savings are mainly due to secondary issues, including the ability to avoid overtime/unexpected costs and a reduced reliance on expensive on-site field labor (a difference of $15/hr vs. $34/hr in Ohio). Furthermore, purchasing and installation cost reductions are often achieved once prefabrication is utilized across a firm’s entire breadth of projects.
Sixty-five percent of firms utilizing prefabrication report that it has yielded a Medium to Very High impact on project quality. Factory conditions offer the ability to implement more extensive quality control checks on each unit produced. Additionally, the ability to fabricate in factory conditions instead of variable environments (ex: on ladders or scaffolding) helps facilitate a natural quality increase.
With evidence of multiple productivity benefits, the practice of prefabrication proves to be not only presently advantageous but also absolutely critical to future industry success.
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Sammy Geroulis is a guest essayist and Project Manager for AMEND Consulting, LLC. For further inquiry, he can be reached at Geroulis@amendllc.com.