The greatest opportunity for embracing prefabrication and modular construction will allow you to keep up with or even pass the competition.
Prefab is not a modern method of construction. It was in use back in the 1950s. But it feels new because of the number of companies that are beginning to adopt it. Companies that haven’t used prefab think of it as modern.
With prefabrication, there may not be great cost savings at first, although surveys report 10% or more saved over the price of traditional stick-built. There can be elements that make prefab cost neutral compared to conventional methods. For instance, there are ways to minimize waste. Lean methods, for instance, can be applied to processes and continuous improvement. While Lean methods are more widely applicable to manufacturing – as well as more traceable – than in construction, savings are savings. Construction jobs generally require moving from site to site, and every site is different.
However, companies can save on labor because fewer workers are needed in a factory setting compared to a jobsite. Safety is also improved, and the schedule can be compressed. One study found that the work accomplished in one week in a prefab facility is the equivalent of three weeks on the construction site. As an innovation, prefab becomes practical when it can replace efforts on the job site that take much longer.
If the leadership of a company decides to jump into prefab, but do that without putting the right systems, processes and standards in place, it’s likely the effort will fail. If it does, they may not understand why it failed. It doesn’t speed up anything to skip steps or jump ten steps ahead. It will end up frustrating everyone involved.
Everyone is on a different journey. Everyone has a different skill set. If your company is considering prefab, be deliberate about making that move. There’s no point jumping ahead with a technology innovation if the company is slow at adapting. You’ve got to teach people to walk before they can run.
Adopting innovation is a different journey for everyone. Your company is only as strong as your weakest person. Everyone needs to be on a level playing field. There are companies that are more innovative than others. That will change as the diversity and backgrounds of the workforce changes.
If you feel there has to be a better way, be sure you figure out where your company is in the technology journey. Regardless of whether you’re keeping up or lagging behind. There’s no shame in taking your time and asking questions.
There are companies that are making money now and may not feel like they need to make any changes. Be mindful to plan for the future. What about five years down the road? The competition may have transitioned and pulled into the lead. Will the laggards look back and wish they had made those changes?
Tune in to episode 146 of Bridging the Gap Podcast with Neil Wypior to hear more about the journey toward prefabrication.