How Saint-Gobain Increases Efficiency With Lean Practices

By Akio
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McGraw Hill Construction, the Lean Construction Institute, and Dassault Systèmes teamed up to produce an in-depth report on Lean Construction.

Below is an excerpt from that report on how digital configuration multi-product assemblies are increasing industry efficiency at Saint-Gobain.


Construction site

Increasing Industry Efficiency With Digital Configuration Multi-Product Assemblies

Since 1988, building product manufacturers in the European Union have been working to comply with the “Construction Products Directive” (CPD), a piece of landmark legislation that “aims to ensure the free movement of all construction products by introducing a common technical language” to describe and define product characteristics.

Those could include mechanical strength, fire resistance, heat retention, or any of a wide range of other properties critical to a product’s installed performance.

Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain is a building product manufacturer headquartered in France with a global presence in over 55 countries. They manufacture a broad range of products, including insulation, gypsum, exterior products, pipe and industrial mortars, as well as a number of prefabricated assemblies involving multiple products.

According to Laurent Ortas, head of new construction technologies, and Francois Pincemin, head of constructive solutions and prefabrication, the company has long been committed to supporting the CPD and is now leveraging that platform to support their leadership role in the emerging trend of highly efficient model-based design, fabrication and construction.

Standardization of Product Descriptions

Anticipating their customers’ need for digital versions of Saint-Gobain products to function in model-based applications and workflows, the company has been working closely with the AIMCC, a French association of building product manufacturers, to create a European Standard Dictionary, available in French, German, Swedish and English that would be a consistent reference as they, and others, developed parametric models of building products.

AIMCC anticipates having a comprehensive European standard dictionary of product properties and an ongoing maintenance process in place by the end of 2014.

Using this dictionary, all building product manufacturers can harmonize their digital product offerings for greater interoperability, a key user-friendly goal of all organizations participating in digital design and construction.

Impact on Industry Efficiency

Saint-Gobain is advancing the practice further by allowing design and construction professionals to search for products based on the characteristics they need, as well as to virtually configure more complex assemblies from complementary product lines.

And to make their offering even more functional, Saint-Gobain is enabling the automatic creation by users of digital model versions of the selected products or configured assemblies. This avoids the need for manufacturers to invest in vast catalogs of pre-built digital models and have them waiting for users to find and download.

Instead, a model based on a customer’s specific needs can be generated and delivered quickly, on-demand, from underlying product data that have been structured to comply with the standard dictionary.

Another common problem of prebuilt product models is that they often contain either too little or too much information for the user’s need at hand.

Saint-Gobain addresses that by allowing users to control how simple or complex their on-demand model will be, depending on its intended use.

To ensure that as many users as possible can take advantage of this capability, Saint-Gobain is working in alignment with the many other international organizations that are all promoting IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) as an interoperable standard for model exchange between various software tools.

The reliance on standardized digital descriptions of product characteristics also helps Saint-Gobain to engage in more efficient manufacturing by allowing computer-controlled cutting and finishing equipment to work directly from the data. This reduces waste, improves efficiency, and provides assemblies that are faster to install onsite.

In fact, products and assemblies for an entire project can be manufactured in sync with construction production schedules to enable smaller “Just-In-Time” deliveries to the site, which can generate many benefits for time, labor, safety, and project control.

Conclusion

These efforts by Saint-Gobain are extremely encouraging because they demonstrate that enlightened manufacturers, along with contractors and industry organizations, are increasingly recognizing the contribution of standards, collaborations, and partnerships to achieve the benefits of Lean principles industry-wide, not just for individual practitioners.


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