News and opinion from Modularize
Dave Hughes has joined Modularize from Mace Consulting to head up the project management service focusing on the delivery of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) projects. Modularize’s vision for the future is ambitious, in wanting to take a lead in the change from traditional construction to a focus on offsite manufacture. For the last decade Modularize has solely focused on DfMA and have in that time developed a strong reputation in the sector for a linking design with the factory process and meeting client requirements.
In a short interview with Zoe Kennedy, Modularize’s Communication Lead, Zoe asks Dave the following questions:-
For me as a project manager the main difference is the opportunity to innovate of a repeatable process. In traditional construction there are always so many variables that inevitably you are reinventing the wheel somewhere. In DfMA because you are to some degree restricted in what you are able to do, for example volumetric has to be able to fit on the back of a truck for delivery to site. Those constraints provide you with much more focus on finding the best outcome and also allows for feedback from one project to another to actually be of use. By being able to have actionable feedback we are able to show improvement over time.
The other major difference is the certainty of cost, time and quality that DfMA can provide in comparison to traditional construction. We talk a lot about BIM in construction and digital twins and those are great but the amount that those are used to a very high level of detail isn’t as common as you might be led to believe. Also, the contractual arrangements that are used and where risk is apportioned particularly around design liability mean that BIM struggles to reach its full potential. Compare that to a Manufactures Information Pack (MIP) it’s fully detailed including production sequencing and a fully costed bill of materials. Because that needs to be built in a factory environment and the factory is coordinating the operatives and the ordering of all materials the level of coordination is significantly higher than in traditional. Responsibility is also much clearer and controlled.
It might be essential but I think it’s definitely a good idea. Project Management is a funny disciple and there is always the debate about if someone well versed in project management principles could effectively manage any project in any industry. Probably they could but I don’t think it would be easy and the market tells us that project managers do tend to specialise.
The project management offer Modularize will be providing will save time and money for our clients who are keen to gain the benefits of DfMA. We have the experience in house of the DfMA sector as a whole. We know the factories; we know the processes and we know what works and what doesn’t.
A key difference with what we bring is understanding and communicating the different mindset that needs to flow though the team. We are not building a building on a site. We are manufacturing components to be assembled on a site. That might sound obvious but, in my experience, the inclination to ‘sort it out on site’ really does cause a lot of issues for traditional construction projects. You can’t do that when you are setting out a manufacturing slot in a factory. All those details need to be sorted out before you get started.
There will always be a need for some customisation with houses or any building because there will be areas of the country that will have different planning conditions, but I think with the numbers the way they are for example, there is a massive demand for houses. We need to innovate on the process and the speed and cost of producing the products and not focus so much making them different. Most housing layouts have been done a million times and they work fine. Customisation can happen on the finishes and the fittings can add the differences that are required as we change our habits. It will be interesting to see how many new housing developments are coming out with home offices since Covid and WFH becomes more common.
I don’t think you will ever build a totally bespoke buildings using a factory or manufacturing process but that’s not our focus right now. We are talking about customisation at a relatively low level. Using the car analogy again the difference between the standard and luxury version is about 20% of all the components compared to the standard. It’s the stuff you can touch and feel maybe the engine that are different, but the majority is the same. To summarise there will be an element of customisation but mainly on the finishes but as I said it’s the constraints and the standardisation and that’s how we will make our processes more efficient, that’s what I find exciting.
If you are thinking about going down the DfMA route, then having an initial chat as soon as possible is probably wise. It might be that the project isn’t suitable or that it could but not as you currently envision so better to change some fundamentals early to get the most out of DfMA. I’d love to talk to potential clients about their concerns with DfMA and help them understand what’s possible because as a sector there are some amazing things happening right now. The days of the wobbly floored site cabin type schemes are long gone. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Dave is looking visibly uncomfortable on the video right now* I’m originally from New Zealand, I’m married to a Yorkshire lady and we live in West Yorkshire with our two young children who keep me very busy. I’m part of a tennis club but have only played once this year, I used to snowboard but I don’t do anymore, I used to surf but I don’t do that anymore, I used to play rugby and I don’t do that anymore! I used to be interesting and then I became a full time Dad!