Amy Marks, Head of Industrialized Construction Strategy and Evangelism at Autodesk, believes that “the opportunity to productize goes far beyond consumer goods, extending to the construction industry.” In the Redshift article, “A Productization Strategy for Construction? Here Are 3 Ways to Make It a Reality,” Marks explained, “I was in a presentation recently, and the speaker was talking about how phones and cars used to be made versus how they’re made now: They’re vastly different,” Marks says. “Then, he showed how houses were made then and how they’re made now. It’s almost exactly the same.”
Unfortunately, inefficiency and lack of insight appear to be common in the world of construction—too common for comfort. Marks believes that “adapting a productization strategy to the construction industry is challenging but possible and necessary. Some of the barriers to real business-model innovation are tool- and process-based, but many are cultural—steeped in years of tradition, practice, training, workflows, and even definitions of value.”
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So, what’s the point of industrialized construction, and why should we utilize it now? Even before the disruption of the pandemic, the article points out that the construction industry was “taking big hits because of higher materials costs, skilled labor shortages, project complexity, tougher safety measures, profit and productivity challenges, and relatively slow uptake of technology.”
While neither industrialized construction nor prefabrication are new to the industry, there is increasing pressure driving greater adoption. Most significantly, we are seeing subcontractors recognizing value and driving the agenda, particularly MEP specialty contractors. Adopters of prefabrication emphasize the importance of optimization. Once a product is defined, subcontractors can strive to improve it over time, using data analysis to guide them. This helps anticipate future costs, schedules and quality.
Photo: Northrop Grumman
Manufacturing approaches in other industries – for example automotive and aircraft – have brought predictability, profitability and efficient use of labor and materials. Similarly, standardized industrial-type processes in construction can deliver better building performance. An industry whitepaper by Sumit Oberoi and Alain Waha suggests leveraging technology to transform construction processes toward a more sustainable and better performing industry – toward less waste and more efficiency.
A better built environment can result in smart buildings that make the best use of energy, space, operations, and worker productivity.
As we see more and more success with industrialized construction, led by example from the MEP subcontractor segment, contractors of every trade need to take a cue and consider prefab construction. By leveraging their understanding of the industry and through trusted relationships, they can drive the future of industrialized construction forward. Then we can ditch the inefficiency and lack of insight and reach the point where the old way houses were made compared to the new way they’re made will be vastly different.