The value of time in MMC/Offsite Construction is underestimated
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) building systems, elements, components and construction processes provide many undeniable advantages over traditional construction methods, and these advantages generally contribute to the better value of MMC/Offsite. Here we are referring to all MMC categories, including 2D panellised, 3D volumetric/modular, factory manufactured components etc. (we’d advise consulting the MMC definitions framework for explanations and descriptions).
Traditionally the construction industry has sought to increase profit margins by focussing on immediate costs – costs of materials (without considering value in use), labour costs, sub-contractor costs etc. Trying to push these costs down, while simultaneously trying to do the same old jobs more quickly, almost inevitably results in inferior quality control and consequently poorer overall build quality and standards. It is surely now time that a more modern approach is adopted.
The construction industry is experiencing a period of intense upheaval. The rapid tightening and increasing complexity of Building Regulations, and the advent of Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), will result in buildings either becoming ever more prohibitively expensive, or, alternatively and more positively, will drive greater innovation in the industry to increase productivity and affordability. This will be one of the critical drivers of MMC/Offsite Construction, and of further advances in that sector.
Currently the potential total value time can add in MMC/Offsite projects is far from being realised. While the more recent focus on MMC has seen a greater emphasis on concepts such as “rapid build”, the potential of time as a critical resource has not been nearly fully researched, evaluated and utilised.
Do more in less time.
As is routinely the case in manufacturing and other industries (many of which appear to better understand the value of time), the construction industry must strive to fully embrace process innovation from initial conception through planning, design, manufacture, supply chain, assembly, construction and finishing, to extract more time value.
To do this, and thus to get the most time value possible while using Offsite/MMC technologies, Lean Principles can be embraced and implemented. Lean aims to maximise value by minimising waste, to use available resources as efficiently as possible and to focus on eliminating every non-value adding activity.
The five principles of lean are value, value streams, flow, pull and perfection.
This relates to the customer’s perception of value. The industry must aim to better understand the drivers of customer value, and research and explore what the customer is prepared to pay for in terms of features, efficiencies, design specifics, aesthetics etc. If these factors are accurately identified and focussed upon, extraneous costs can be eliminated, and waste reduced.
There is no point in wasting time and resources to provide something the customer does not value.
Construction is very complex, with many varying elements and influences, internal and external. By its very nature, with the enormous variety of processes involved, it is eminently suited to the use and application of lean principles.
The value stream includes all the myriad processes, procedures and materials required to supply the final product to the customer. (To name just a few - planning, design, manufacture, transport, site preparation, supply chain, assembly, construction etc.).
To embrace lean, stakeholders must understand and document their value streams, using techniques such as value stream mapping.
Detailed scrutiny of processes will identify time lags, value-adding activities, inefficient and uneconomical activities, technical and production deficits, and opportunities to improve and eliminate waste.
Ideally everything should run smoothly. To derive maximum time value, efficient progression throughout all processes is paramount. This is where synchronisation between all stakeholders becomes so important, and this leads back to the need for detailed and precise planning and design, with intricate cooperation and continuously open lines of communication between all stakeholders from day one.
This will eventually come to be understood to be as critical in the offsite industry as it is in manufacturing industries. For example, just-in-time manufacturing, a methodology aimed primarily at reducing times within production systems and response times from suppliers and to customers, has been clearly established in many manufacturing industries as a critically important time saver. MMC/Offsite Construction is an obvious example of where delivery of product from the manufacturer to the client as and when required is vital.
Lean promotes the relentless pursuit of perfection. Not solely in terms of the end product, but in eliminating/limiting waste, which automatically results in time savings, reduced costs, and better value. The pursuit of perfection has not tended to be an objective in construction, rather the aim has been (and currently continues to be) to achieve compliance with the basic regulatory requirements at minimum cost. Being regressive, this approach can be counter-productive - a more progressive and enlightened approach, embracing technological and production technique advancements, can enable developers to pursue perfection and simultaneously reduce costs by valuing time.
Evolusion Innovation is the leading MMC / Offsite Construction engineering consultancy and provides a range of specialist services to the industry. The experience and expertise (backed by numerous third-party accreditations) of the teams in all our departments (Structural Engineering, Building Physics (includes a Sustainability team), Product Development, Quality Engineering and Auditing) ensure premium and optimal cost-effective services. We have been involved in projects with a total value of over €2.5 billion to date, and using the valuable experienced gained, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls in the approach to offsite construction/MMC developments.