Electrical prefabrication is rapidly taking shape in the construction industry. Like other construction industry areas, the need to increase productivity and reduce costs without sacrificing quality drives prefabrication to become popular in the U.S. electrical industry. As a result, there has been a rise in prefabrication and modular construction methods, with growing evidence in productivity improvements, cost reductions, and project installation times.
Using prefabrication includes identifying and limiting repeated field installation tasks before work starts. In addition, prefabrication offers a versatile construction method that allows greater flexibility and more consistency than traditional “stick building” construction methods.
Learn more about the Industrialization of Construction by ELECTRI International. To achieve a competitive advantage, an electrical contracting firm’s planning, prefab, vendor management, productivity tracking, and other current tasks must be accomplished systematically across the company.
Is prefabrication worth it for electrical contractors? First, consider the savings and efficiencies gained in adoption.
Cost savings through prefabrication
One of the widely proven benefits of prefabrication is cost savings. These are a few different areas:
- Reduce material costs: Through prefabrication, material cost savings are achievable in many ways. For example, if you can prefabricate common components for jobs, you can use any downtime between jobs to do that work reducing overtime costs and expenses incurred on the jobsite. Prefabrication can also potentially bring down material costs through bulk purchases.
- Waste reduction brings substantial cost savings and helps achieve green building goals with more accurate prefabricated components.
- Reduce labor costs: Prefabrication helps reduce labor costs by preparing components before field installation and reducing installation errors and rework. Purchasing prefabricated components from your suppliers can also reduce the labor load on your electrical contracting firm.
- Reduced labor costs #2: With fewer workers required on the jobsite to install the components, contractors can maximize workers’ performance to assemble the structures in safer environments. In addition, by mitigating delays from weather and broken shipped materials, prefabrication helps quality control before materials are sent to the jobsite.
- Improving safety in the field also brings down labor costs and risks of staff downtime by mitigating exposure to hazards on the jobsite on complex electrical installations.
- Reduced estimating costs – Another area of cost savings can be realized in your electrical estimating software by utilizing data collected in the shop, such as prefabricated and productivity data secured in fabrication shop software.
Time savings through prefabrication
Another primary benefit of prefabrication is time savings on the job. Using prefabricated assemblies helps contractors streamline their installation process, resulting in less time on the job site.
Prefabricated assemblies offer more exact specifications in protected environments designed to limit adjustments while teams are at the jobsite. The ideal example of prefabrication for electrical contractors means components need to be connected to electricity to start working, mitigating ancillary issues causing delays such as retrieving forgotten materials or tools.
Prefabrication also eliminates unnecessary material handling on the job site. There is less material movement from room to room than traditional “stick building” construction methods. Prefabrication assemblies are designed to improve assemblies over time, making them more efficient project after project.
In most cases, finalizing plans for prefabrication will shorten the entire project timeline before a building is built or renovated. In addition, prefabrication can even help reduce the timeframe within different construction fields by minimizing weather impacts on construction. For example, something prefabricated in a workshop can mitigate weather delays and optimize schedules for workers to be on the jobsite.
The requirements using prefabrication
Expert advice for prefabricating components within your own business for the first time is to start small. For example, you might prefabricate wiring devices, temporary lighting, or bending conduits. The main point is that starting on small efforts helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t without placing too much risk out in the field.
Prefab considerations for your Electrical Contracting firm
Electrical contractors need to examine their current tools, staffing, and facilities before bringing prefab work in-house. You must hire prefabrication professional activities, establish the appropriate prefab shop space and processes, and ensure your fab shop and staff have the right equipment and tools to succeed.
Secondly, it’s crucial to remember that electrical prefabrication is an outcome of sound project planning. The collaborative plan’s quality and available information going into the project will succeed or fail. While prefabricated elements don’t need to be confined to only small items, you need to be very confident of what you’re doing when it comes to more significant components. Any incorrect or incomplete specs or drawings could throw your project off-course.
In the future of electrical prefabrication, contractors will join forces with other trades in collaboration. For example, many electrical contractors integrate prefabricated electrical components such as panel builds and lighting packages into modular data center skids. In addition, green building initiatives and other efforts to improve waste management in construction are underway.
As a whole, prefabrication is relatively new to the electrical field. Still, it is catching on quickly as substantial evidence brings all construction trades to seek higher productivity, greater efficiency, and lower costs for high-quality work.
Prefabrication technology has several advantages: energy efficiency revision, minimal waste and inspection, efficient construction, work speed, protection, sustainability, and quality.
Designed prefabricated electrical components are often higher quality and more efficiently created and comply with green-building certification programs. The process enables electrical contractors to manage projects and workflows with much greater flexibility and efficiency from design, shipping to installing assemblies on the construction job sites. It also offers contractors a sustainable competitive advantage through cost savings, higher productivity, faster project schedules, higher customer ROI, and increased profit margins.
Electrical contractors who don’t embrace prefabrication will soon discover an increasingly competitive landscape to retain the same business they recently won. The case for prefabrication represents enough benefits for electrical contractors to adopt under the right circumstances. However, as with anything, having the right team, processes, facility, and technology infrastructure is imperative.