• Rick Willison

Creating a Foundation for an Industrialized Approach to Construction

The challenges faced by the construction industry are well-known – significant shortages of skilled labor, high costs associated with high-quality projects and timelines that are impacted by a wide range of factors. We know the industry must adopt a new way of building to address not just those issues, but also the unprecedented need for new infrastructure and housing units around the world.

In our last blog, we talked about what stands between a traditional approach to construction and a truly Industrialized approach. By creating a platform to support reusable components and rethinking where you construct components, you’ve hurdled two of the biggest challenges.

We consider Industrialized Construction to be the next industrial revolution and our industry is begging for a platform that will help integrate every aspect of construction, from design to manufacture to build.

We believe that by using technology, we can integrate data, processes, and technology to enable a seamless, end-to-end Industrialized Construction workflow. This type of platform enables IC scalability by incorporating automation, data standards, and a cloud application ecosystem.

Adopting such a solution will help manage and automate the design to build process, but without also automating the actual build process, you’ll still be battling the same unknowns at your build site.

As we discussed in our last blog, virtually any type of construction organization can streamline their building or manufacturing process by adopting a fairly old school approach – using a factory-like setting versus doing everything on the job site, just as the auto industry did a century ago. The upside of building this way is enormous – build schedules can be cut in half, key parts of the process can be automated, and schedule and quality control are drastically improved when ad-hoc site conditions are removed.

This concept of moving toward the factorization of the construction industry isn’t brand new. The prefabrication and modular construction industry is predicted to grow at 6.50% CAGR between 2015 and 2020, with a projection that prefabrication and modular construction will total $209 billion by the end of the decade. Now is the time to create your action plan to move to a factory approach to building. #prefabrication #modularconstruction

Given the construction industry isn’t really keen on funding large capital projects, we know this feels like a monumental task, but it’s critical for companies to begin to think about how they shift their business models to address this burgeoning market.

Your reaction is probably, “Sure. No problem. I’ll just whip up a factory where we can build our projects.” But, while you’re probably shaking your head, the process doesn’t have to be daunting, as long as you start small. There are three initial steps you can take to create the framework for an industrialized approach to construction.

A Roof Over Your Head

As we noted previously, the first step is simple – create a site under a roof and you’ve just started your factory.

The obvious immediate benefit is a comfortable, controlled work environment, with no weather delays or lighting issues. And it’s safe and secure, meaning reduced risks such as theft or vandalism. With just this simple step, you’ve created a system that’s already better and faster.

For example, instead of shipping doors, hinges, doorknobs and frames as separate components and storing them at the job site until your team is ready to install, you assemble those components under your roof. When the site is ready for doors, you deliver them for immediate install – a familiar Just In Time (JIT) approach. Your site team has now been freed up to focus on the building that must take place onsite, while your “factory” team has been handling assembly.

Your progression should be slow and methodical – start by moving from on-site to a site under a roof, and start with one trade, perhaps framing. As your factory becomes more efficient, additional trades can be added, like the earlier mentioned door assemblies or window casements. As you increase the number of trades under your roof, you reduce the number of trades that need to be onsite, given you more control over the building process, reducing your timelines and costs. As your margins increase, your factory can grow.


As your organization becomes more comfortable with the concept of putting together building modules under a roof, the next step should be a hard look at your supply chain. Instead of relying on loose parts being delivered to the job site, your factory setting can be used to “package” those parts in “kits”.

In IC, scalability will only occur with tight integration between a kit of parts platform and a technology platform.

In the kit-of-Parts platform, the focus is on developing, iterating and refining reusable components that can be mixed and matched to design and create a wide variety of buildings. These components are designed for manufacturing and ease of assembly onsite or in your factory.

Your kit-of-parts must be flexible, automated and usable so you can design and engineer rapidly, with immediate feedback on cost and schedule. We’ll discuss in greater depth, the approach to a kit of parts in an upcoming blog. #kitofparts #scalability #DfMA

Data Management

As you begin constructing under a roof and expand your catalog of pre-assembled “kits”, it’s important to implement a data management system to support your entire design-build process.

Using a software platform, where all your users within a system can contribute to the dataflow while simultaneously benefiting from other user’s data. This data-centric connected workflow should start upstream and flow from design through to construction.

By taking these steps, you can transform your approach to construction, better insulating your core business from a dependence on traditional construction and its limitations of the process, cost, time and scalability. #dataflow #datacentric

Rick Willison, VP, Construction

A California native, Rick is responsible for every facet of preconstruction at Project Frog, including nurturing client/partner relationships, organizing and implementing the Preferred Installer Partnership Program, and driving customer acquisition and delivery. Inspired by the high-level of innovations creating functional and affordable buildings in lower-income communities, Rick was excited to be part of a team that intends to revolutionize an industry that is in dire need of a makeover. Follow Rick on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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