Focusing on Process Over Product: A New Approach to Construction Productivity

By Patrick
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This blog is adapted from an AIA presentation on Technology and Practice presented in partnership with the UNC Charlotte College of Architecture in October 2016.

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for Construction Productivity”

Research indicates that construction is one of the only industries where efficiency and productivity has actually fallen over the past 50 to 60 years. While processes exist to optimize construction, one of the biggest challenges in overcoming this inefficiency is the fact that few AEC companies see their own inefficiency.

According to the 2013 Dodge Data & Analytics (McGraw-Hill Construction) SmartMarket Report, roughly a quarter of U.S. general or trade contractors expressed familiarity with or had implemented Lean construction practices.

Significantly fewer still—less than 8%—had used specific Lean manufacturing strategies such as Toyota Way or Six Sigma. More interestingly, the report found that those companies not familiar with a Lean approach didn’t view their practices as inefficient.

The building industry as a whole remains a long way from understanding the efficiency benefits of Lean manufacturing in construction. And without this understanding, there’s limited opportunity to reduce the 30% waste seen across construction sites.

However, the journey to Lean manufacturing in construction has already begun and knowledgeable architects can further drive this transformation.

This journey can be seen taking place in three waves.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: The 3 waves of
progress toward #AEC efficiency

The 1st Wave: Design for Fabrication

One of the largest areas of waste in AEC processes is the creation of multiple redundant drawings.

Most architects today create 3D representational drawings from which they extract 2D drawings for the purpose of permitting or, in some cases, construction drawings.

In addition, the fabricator will produce detailed shop drawings that show every nut and bolt and exactly how every part they supply will need to go together.

Then the builder needs sequence drawings that show scaffolding, formwork, space for storage and equipment, and so on.

This is where much of the 30% waste comes from: redundant effort and coordination after the fact of these different files from different professional experts.

Consider how differently each trade looks at a single building element like, for example, a column.

  1. The architect focuses on the finished material, such as the brick or stone cladding.
  2. The structural engineer focuses on the overall shape, perhaps the concrete density, and an understanding of the load the column can bear.
  3. The structural detailer focuses on the rebar inside the column and the connections between the beam and the column.
  4. The builder focuses on the formwork that surrounds the column because that is the activity that must occur in the field.
  5. A facility manager focuses on the as-built conditions as well as the history of how the column got installed.

This may mean five different models created by five different parties with five different software packages that represent the same item in the building, all of which are important to the facility manager who looks at all of those combined viewpoints as important history about the column.

A single building element may be modeled five separate times by five different disciplines which are poorly coordinated.

A single building element may be modeled 5 separate times by 5 different disciplines.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “A column modeled 5xs
by 5 parties = #AEC coordination fail”

Few BIM solutions today integrate these various steps, focusing instead on the architect’s need to create a 3D drawing. Yet these steps can be integrated and done in a collaborative way.

With design for fabrication, all parties can further work to integrate cost and schedule information to get a complete work breakdown and meaningful information for managing a project.

The 2nd Wave: Design for Delivery

On the site of a traditional construction project, many delays occur due to the necessity of sequencing workers. When large sections are prebuilt in a factory environment, it’s possible to use less expensive labor that can work side by side, and in a much safer environment.

However, even factory prefabrication presents challenges.

The prefabricated components must account for the logistics of delivering the units to the construction site and onsite installation.

The design must consider factors such as: How heavy are the elements? How large are the elements? Is there an order to placing them?

Design for Delivery provides value by simulating the construction process as a digital mock-up and creating a production control system to execute. Integrating the design concept, the fabrication details and the sequence models in a true PLM backbone allows AEC professionals to go beyond meeting contract requirements by simply reducing errors.

With true simulation—down to the level of individual workers to account for safety and efficiency, and planned sequencing—all parties can achieve high value and savings.

When in the field, even Lean construction (left) means scheduling conflicts due to the need to store materials onsite and sequence work. In Lean manufacturing of buildings (right) as few as two workers are able to complete numerous tasks at once and produce high quality parts much faster than could be done in the field.

When in the field, even Lean construction (left) means scheduling conflicts due to the need to store materials onsite and sequence work. In Lean manufacturing of buildings (right) as few as 2 workers are able to complete numerous tasks at once and produce high quality parts much faster than could be done in the field.

The 3rd Wave: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

The third wave is about building in information on manufacturing efficiency into the way buildings are designed. The starting point for Design for Manufacturing and Assembly is to think about how to optimize factory processes and then most efficiently assemble the modular elements in the field.

In this approach, designers must understand the capabilities of the manufacturer to design an approach to construction and delivery that accounts for the logistics of getting the product installed. For example, a prefab concrete panel might best be completed with rebar exposed on one side.

By using half completed panels, the shipping weight can be reduced, the need for formwork eliminated as the panels themselves can serve as formwork for the final onsite concrete pour, and onsite MEP connections might be more easily completed.

Prefabrication has proven popular as a way to improve worker safety and productivity, as well as product quality.

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worker safety, productivity, quality

But a factory approach must also account for how best to transport and place modular elements. In some cases this might necessitate the combination of a remote, highly automated factory, near site fabrication of elements and onsite final installation of elements. These types of strategies can greatly eliminate waste.

New Processes to Support the Three Waves

While most new designers coming out of school today are trained in modeling tools, not all are gaining true insight into their role in waste reduction. Architects can optimize the AEC process by working closely with manufacturers, fabricators and subcontractors early on projects, and with integrated drawings.

To reach this end, however, AEC professionals will need to adopt new contract structures to ensure early access to knowledgeable suppliers and embrace project insurance that protects all parties.

In addition, architects can advise owners to budget for shop drawings earlier in the design process, so that design documents and shop drawings can be created simultaneously in a collaborative environment.

By breaking down siloes, tomorrow’s AEC professionals can manufacture even highly complex projects more efficiently than ever.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: 3 waves of #AEC progress: Design for
Fabrication → for Delivery → for Manuf & Assembly

Related Resources

Design for Fabrication Industry Solution Experience

Optimized Construction Industry Solution Experience

Lean Construction SmartMarket Report

Takeuchi Streamlines Product Development with 3DEXPERIENCE

By Alyssa
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11-2-2016-9-47-29-am

With rising investment in infrastructure around the globe, the heavy construction equipment industry is poised for a high rate of growth.  Clearly, that is good news for companies in that industry.  But there is a hitch. At the same time, those very companies are faced with adapting their businesses to meet the needs of the Experience Economy, which has created an environment where customers are increasingly demanding custom machine configurations.  How can a company transform itself in a time of high demand?

This was the challenge faced by Takeuchi, a 50-year old Japanese construction equipment manufacturer with a reputation as a market innovator that produces high-quality products.  Takeuchi set a goal to streamline its development processes in order to help them accelerate delivery of products that meet both customer and regulatory requirements.

Among the key first steps was improving internal processes and unifying a collection of different and incompatible information systems.  Takeuchi chose Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE solutions to provide its employees with an integrated platform for all product-related activities.  This is not limited to its product development designers: Takeuchi’s other departments such as production control and production engineering have access to system data as well.

 

With this platform, we avoid a patchwork-like system of different solutions from different vendors, which is a nightmare to coordinate.”

 

Read a new case study to learn more about the benefits Takeuchi has gained from 3DEXPERIENCE, including:

  • the ability to create more product variants with a fewer number of parts
  • increased re-use of existing parts
  • reduced lead times for new product introductions
  • eliminating the need for physical prototypes

Applauding XtreeE in Leading 3D Printing Revolution

By Akio
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clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Applauding @XtreeE in Leading a
#3dprinting Revolution in #AEC | @3DSAEC

Even as digital technology is transforming AEC processes, emerging digital platforms stand poised to transform construction products themselves.

Paris-based XtreeE is seeking to lead an industrial revolution in construction, civil and mechanical engineering by using 3D printing for large-scale architectural applications.

Through integrated consulting, manufacturing and technology, XtreeE provides education on how to use additive construction in the construction industry, while also developing end-user solutions and the technology needed to fabricate products.

Watch this 360-degree video to experience the process of designing and 3D printing a concrete structure:

(Tip: Use the directional controls to pan around the room as the video plays.)

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: [VIDEO] Watch
@XtreeE #3dprinting in action

XtreeE’s Exploration of Additive Printing

Led by Philippe Morel, architect and founder of EZCT Architecture & Design Research, the group brings together architects, civil engineers, material research engineers, scientists and roboticists.

The possibilities—including structural pillars, truss structures and walls—that XtreeE present are promising.

3D Printing as the Future for Construction

The concept of using additive construction to manufacture building components may be the next step in the evolution toward prefabrication.

By prefabricating building systems, AEC teams are able to more rapidly deliver quality products at reduced costs.

Additive construction takes those benefits a step further. It allows fabricators to produce highly complex one-off shapes at a controlled cost. It provides incredibly high precision for each component at levels of less than 0.5 mm.

By using parametric design to create an optimized component, less material is needed, leading to lighter products and less waste.

XtreeE suggests that integration of these processes can reduce time to market by approximately 40%.

The Tools Necessary for Next-Level Innovation

Dassault Systèmes, in honoring XtreeE commitment to innovation and entrepreneurial applications for 3D printing and connected objects, supports XtreeE by providing design and simulation tools through the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.

Simulating and optimizing the fabrication of a structure

Simulating and optimizing the fabrication of a structure


 

Sketching a structure to be 3D printed.

Sketching a structure to be 3D printed.

With our 3D simulation tools, the XtreeE team can optimizes the design and shape of their structures:

  • Simulation enables advanced structural analysis and topological optimization, taking the properties of the new materials into account.
  • Generative Design Exploration enables designers and architects to create biomimetic forms.
  • Continuous additive manufacturing allows the roof and the walls to be manufactured simultaneously, together with built-in seating.
  • Computer-programmed robotic fabrication enables a minimum use of concrete that balances optimal structural performance with sustainability.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: #3DPrinting concrete structures
promises exciting new breakthroughs in #AEC

Celebrating a Concrete Achievement

To celebrate the XtreeE team’s latest achievement of producing a concrete pavilion using 3D additive manufacturing—the first construction project of its kind in Europe—Dassault hosted a ceremony in Velizy-Villacoublay, France on September 20, 2016.

XtreeE and Dassault Systèmes at the pavilion inauguration in France

XtreeE and Dassault Systèmes at the pavilion inauguration in France.

At the event, Morel emphasized the importance of innovating with construction materials in order to advance the industry. He also pointed out how relatively rapidly concrete has evolved in just 200 years into a core element of our built environment.

Both the Dassault Systèmes and XtreeE teams are enthusiastic about continuing to develop AEC innovations in concrete using simulation tools and 3D printing.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Applauding @XtreeE in Leading a
#3dprinting Revolution in #AEC | @3DSAEC

Related Resources

Collaborative and Industrialized Construction

Learn more about XtreeE

Learn more about the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab



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