Much has been heralded over the past 12 months or more about the challenges we currently face in construction. The Farmer review brought all of that into stark reality with his now infamous and succinct statement ‘Modernise or Die’
The combination of a desperate housing shortage, an ageing workforce, a lack of funding and investment in training, impeding Brexit, whatever that might mean and an ever acute skills shortage means the industry has now reached an absolute critical juncture.
With the call for a step change in productivity, improvements in build quality and reduced waste and defects; offsite manufacture and modular construction techniques are seen by many as the most realistic solution to this problem.
Twelve months on and for the 1st time in generation, I firmly believe, we are starting to see a real shift in momentum with ‘change’ on the agenda of nearly every client, in every sector either seeking change, embracing change or at least talking about change; a significant change from just a couple of years ago.
However, whilst ‘offsite’, ‘modular’ or ‘volumetric’ may now be on the agenda for many, we recognise that the majority of building and infrastructure projects are invariably bespoke and that there is no ‘one size fits all’. This has historically prevented us from harnessing the benefits of standardisation, mass production and offsite manufacture.
The Silka Element System
Now with the introduction of the Silka Element system and our partnership with Milbank and Xella GmbH, we are now able to bring innovative Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) methodologies to all of our construction sites.
So what is Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) you might ask.
Well DfMA is principally a design approach that focuses on the ease of manufacture and the efficiency of the assembly. It is a concept that has been developed from Industry and Lean Thinking; and by rationalising the design it is possible to manufacture and assemble in a more efficient, cost effective manner saving both time and money.
Traditionally, DfMA has been applied to sectors such as the car and consumer products industries, both of which need to produce high quality products in large numbers efficiently. Now and more recently, construction has started to look at DfMA for the off-site prefabrication of construction components such as floors, walls and structural components.
As with lean, DfMA changes the mind-set with a series standardised processes and solutions; enabling a step-change in productivity, and providing a safer, cleaner and more efficient construction process, leading to a tangible improvement in quality and substantial reductions in waste and defects.
So What are the Advantages of DfMA?
Speed – Speed is probably the primary advantage of DfMA on a construction site. Up to 50% faster than traditional construction, enabling significant savings in labour and prelim costs and an earlier return on investment.
Productivity – The productivity gains are immeasurable. Allowing us to do far more with the same resource, helping to address or overcome the skills shortage.
Quality – Improved quality, reduced defects and greater consistency is achieved with a more controlled, automated approach.
Safety – Taking construction activities away from the site and manufacturing for ease of erection in a controlled factory environment and assembling on site enables a safer, cleaner, more controlled environment.
Flexibility – So whilst we engineer the process; the ‘function’ and ‘format’ can change from ‘project to project’, ‘sector to sector’ allowing for total design flexibility to suit all needs.
Sustainability – With less waste, improved quality and greater efficiency both on site and in the factory it leads to greater Certainty of Delivery and Improved Sustainability.
So Why Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA)?
Whilst we acknowledge the benefits of ‘offsite’ and ‘modular’ construction for standard, volume build applications; it has many constraints and is less flexible and not as cost effective as more traditional build methods.
We firmly believe that by aligning the principles of DfMA with the latest construction techniques and digital design technology; that a profoundly, new and different Design and Construct process can be developed that affords all of the advantages of offsite but with the flexibility and cost advantage to meet the local site, planning and client needs and go some way to helping deliver the Government’s 2025 Construction Strategy targets.
- By Norman Leslie Hinckes MCIOB
Director and Co–founder of Masonry Frame Systems
A Member of the Chartered Institute of Building and a scholar of the Leadership Trust, Norman founded Masonry Frame Systems with fellow Director Robert Pointer in 2004. Starting out as an Indentured Management Trainee with Wiltshiers’ back in 1978, Norman progressed to become the Chief Estimator before joining Denne Construction as General Manager and latterly a Main Board Director of the Group in Canterbury. Now with over 30 years experience in the construction industry; it is Normans’ leadership, passion and vision that sets’ the pace and direction for Masonry Frame Systems. In addition to his other responsibilities, Norman assumes all day to day responsibility for Business Development, Tendering and Conceptual Design.