Historically the manufacturing and construction sectors have worked very differently. In manufacturing, the goal is optimising the production process – to deliver the highest quality and efficiency. By contrast, construction companies tend to work from project to project: selecting the best materials, collaborators and methods to meet the current, specific needs.
Now, prefabrication can bring the two worlds closer together. Fabricating components off-site leads to more consistent builds and higher quality outputs. Projects with significant mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) and hardened structural requirements, like manufacturing facilities, are exceptionally well placed to benefit.
Manufacturers could even make use of productisation: when subcontractors create defined prefabricated elements (the “products”), that can be procured for construction projects like equipment and incorporated straight into designs.
Here are the reasons prefabrication – and productisation – are perfect for building manufacturing facilities, and how digital construction tools can help you get there.
1: More certainty on every build
Consistency and certainty are critical in the manufacturing sector, especially if you’re running multiple sites. Manufacturers want to produce consistent products, particularly when it comes in heavily regulated goods – and that means consistent facilities. Rather than starting from scratch on every project, it’s better to have uniform facilities that are constructed – then operated – in the same way every time.
The challenge is that traditional construction methods involve multiple skilled tradespeople working on-site in sequence, which increases complexity and the risk of delays or changes. By contrast, prefabrication extracts whole elements from the jobsite, giving owners greater certainty over cost, schedule and output.
What’s more, with digital collaboration platforms, owners can access real-time updates on the fabrication of these elements, so that everyone has a clear view of the project schedule even away from the site. This keeps the build on time, enabling the facility to get up and running as quickly as possible.
2: Access to the power of productisation
Prefabrication brings huge advantages in itself, but manufacturers are well-positioned to go a step further to productisation. This means partnering with construction specialists who create a scalable product that’s defined, managed and optimised – anything from ceilings to modular bathroom pods.
Digital construction networks like BuildingConnected can help owners and designers to find the right prefabrication partners for this process, and check their qualifications for the work. These subcontractors can then provide highly sophisticated, data rich designs for each element they’ll deliver using BIM.
This means manufacturers can find the best fit for their facilities – and provide important feedback for the optimisation of these ‘products’ in the future, so that the design of their assets can continue to improve.
Productisation can deliver value from the first build and throughout an asset’s lifecycle. Importantly, unlike some owners, manufacturers already have the understanding to embrace productisation, with their awareness of the importance of factors like capability and scope for collaborating with fabricators.
3: The ability to decouple technology that changes
Manufacturing technology, such as assembly line robots, will evolve over time and need to be replaced. This can be a costly process and can result in significant downtime in facilities.
With productisation, these components can be decoupled from their enclosures and much more easily replaced. This gives manufacturers greater flexibility – and minimises downtime for upgrades.
Access to rich BIM records on the facility can help to speed up this process of renovation, providing installation teams with the information on assets required to complete the process efficiently – and get manufacturing back up and running at speed.
4: Facilities that can scale to match demand
When you’re commissioning new manufacturing facilities, you often need to anticipate customer demand in the future, to ensure that your investment is worthwhile. But especially in today’s volatile environment, things can change rapidly.
Productisation means that manufacturers can more easily scale their facilities as demand grows – or not, if the capacity isn’t needed. Having these more flexible facilities means that manufacturers don’t have to risk capital anticipating future demand, and can be more reactive to change.
Digital construction platforms like Autodesk Build can enable owners, contractors and prefabricators to collaborate seamlessly on these projects, for productive and efficient builds. This means manufacturers can scale up and expand quickly to meet demand when needed.
5: More sustainable construction and operations
There’s pressure on manufacturers to become more sustainable, with the EU aiming to cut carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. But particularly on projects with large MEP requirements, using traditional construction methods results in significant amounts of waste during construction caused by off-cuts.
Fabricating components off-site is not only more energy-efficient, but reduces the waste created during construction – and so the environmental impact of the build. Subcontractors can also share rich BIM data on the embodied carbon and energy efficiency of each element through digital collaboration platforms, enabling designers to choose the most sustainable option for the facility.
This will help manufacturers to construct and operate their facilities in more sustainable ways, and meet their green targets.
6. Enabling digital twins and further advances
Productisation opens up a number of other advances for manufacturing facilities. Prefabricated components can come with rich BIM data on their makeup and performance – which can then be incorporated into digital twins. Over time, we’ll be able to move from this meta data to functional data that can inform day to day operating decisions, as well as future design improvements for the components. But all of this starts with creating rich digital records today, using BIM.
Looking ahead, using standardised components will also make it easier to apply advanced building techniques like robotics, so that manufacturers can benefit from even faster, more consistent construction.
A new approach
Prefabrication and productisation are already starting to transform construction. Owners of manufacturing facilities are perfectly placed to take advantage of this methodology, and benefit from greater certainty, quality and flexibility in every build. This will also help to drive change in the wider industry – and benefit everyone.