The construction industry is seeing increased adoption of industrialized construction (IC). As companies begin the transformational journey toward IC, their culture, skills, technology, and processes become increasingly important. It is more accurate every day that most companies will get left behind if they don’t make changes. More than ever, company leaders need to think about how the business is going to evolve so it might stay a step ahead of the competition.

There especially need to be shifts in mindset, behaviors and processes to make the change smoother. The industry is stronger when companies work together to bring about change.  

MEP trades are an important part of the industry’s journey. Trade contractors keep the economy going. They create jobs and make things, and these “makers” are the people with the data needed for standardizing construction components.  

Some contractors may feel their jobs are threatened by the trend of productizing assemblies. While it does result in eliminating certain portions of a job from contractor bids, as Amy Marks, the Queen of Prefab at Autodesk, pointed out at MEP Force 2022 in illuminating the current labor shortage, “We can’t find enough people to do your job anyway.”

An MEP shop can mature into a manufacturing facility, and that is a good end-goal for the trades. To do that, MEP contractors need to put themselves in the frame of mind of the consumer.

Part of a company’s maturation involves “expected experience.” Compare the experience of ordering a pizza online to the experience of ordering equipment to show up on time on a jobsite. With a pizza, you can do everything on a mobile device in a few minutes, from ordering, customizing and paying to having it delivered. However, in the case of an active jobsite, multiple calls typically need to be made to order, schedule, confirm, and follow up. 

Wouldn’t it be great if the expected experience of ordering a rack could be like ordering a pizza? If someone were capturing the frequently asked questions and answers about a rack, you would soon have the information needed for an online “bot” to assist with the online ordering of racks.

Currently, models are being designed that MEP companies cannot build from. With manufacturing-inspired design, the product informs the design, and at the end you have that design commissioned. Kits and parts need to be in front of the designer. A model needs to be intelligent for what can be manufactured.

There can still be the illusion of custom using productized methods. For instance, few people care about what’s behind the walls. Those things don’t need to be customized every time, they can be productized because no one will see them. You can standardize certain kits or parts (like wet walls) and then change the things that are built around them.

Transformation to IC will be easier with skilled graduates entering the workforce. With the expertise of Amy Marks, Autodesk has released an open-source curriculum, “Industrialized Construction for the Built Environment Lifecycle.” The instruction includes highlighting the investments needed by stakeholders in terms of technology, skills, teams, and a digital-savvy workforce. The curriculum ultimately benefits students, educators and industry professionals. 

Bridging the Gap Podcast, episode 169 with guest Amy Marks of Autodesk

Tune in to episode 169 with the Queen of Prefab, Amy Marks, as she addresses MEP Force 2022 about the “state of the industry.”

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