With the construction industry beginning to see exceptional value in adopting lean manufacturing & fabrication, there is a lot of information and opinions floating around about how to do it. Discussions can get vague, even puzzling. One thing that seems clear is that the foundation of smart manufacturing is model-based data. Moving it quickly up and down the supply chain and between the design department and manufacturing floor will make manufacturing smart. Unfortunately, for most companies today, that is not so easy.
This article presents ideas for optimizing your Fabrication Shop by leveraging BIM Model-based data to deliver more efficient, higher quality and cost effective materials to the jobsite for assembly. All MEP contractors working with fabrication shops can benefit from 3D Model-Based Definition and inspection to deliver on their prefabrication goals. Rapid inspection to 3D BIM Modeled-data is the now, and hand measurements referencing 2D drawings are on the way out. Specifically, manufactured parts leveraging 3D BIM Modeling data are created faster, more accurate, and cost-effective than measuring the same component by hand and comparing it to a 2D paper drawing. This trend gives companies centralized control of the design, manufacturing, and inspection data for mission-critical components which impacts the entire project. Making the transition with new hardware, software, and training brings a host of measured benefits. And technology is available today to manage the workflow from design-to-fab-to-field teams.
Model-Based Data Brings Several Benefits to Fab Shops
Compared to the physical excitement of creating parts and building a business, how vital can BIM Model data be? “There are many advantages to model-based data and finding the right ones to motivate your shop team is the challenge for your fab shop. A major advantage of using BIM Model-data is that it enhances communication downstream from design and it helps automate manufacturing functions.
BIM model-based data can also help manufacturers reduce cost, speed set-up for manufacturing, and keep track of vital information for improving quality and liability purposes. Today’s most common way of sharing is sending a CAD model or even paper specs, but that is not enough. These sheets include several related documents for each component that comprise a large sub-assembly. How to make it, measure it, and what materials to use are usually contained in separate papers. This leaves the data open to interpretation and reading errors. It could even be entirely wrong. BIM-model data is digital and connects important points between data and integrate documents. In simple terms, it creates engineering-level requirements for manufacturing that do not require interpretation.
What does this mean? For example, using a BIM model that triggers inspection programs automatically. Human error caused by looking over a paper or PDF of GD&T—and perhaps getting it wrong. The same 3-D model used for design can be used in manufacturing, including automating computer-aided manufacturing functions like tool-paths for machining or assembly instructions. Or they are automating one of the more tedious and, therefore, error-prone operations, populating the assembly parts list, or Bill of Material (BOM), with data from each sub-component. Manufacturers depend on the capabilities of CAM to produce high-quality parts.
Perhaps just as important is the traceability of all these essential functions. From design inception to in-use operation, model-based data, and workflow enhancing technology helps makes the digital workflow possible. More capabilities Fab shop technology offers includes:
- — Automate fabrication estimates, timesheet reports, and process improvement feedback in real-time.
- — Model Driven, PDFs, or Hand Drawn – Simplify your workflows to standardize and optimize production.
- — Simple and easy to use for the shop floor to view priority work and the order it needs to be done.
- — Streamlines communications between office, shop, and field teams with real-time notifications for approvals for fabrication, drawing markups, trucks leaving the shop, and more.
Overcoming Roadblocks to Fab Shop Adoption
If BIM-Model Data is so useful, why is it not more widely adopted? Experts explain MEP Contractors that have never seen it, and some who still do not know what it is, while others are wary. While model-based data is a technology, an organization that fully embraces its use and dispenses with paper is considered an early adopter. And this is the roadblock. Adopting a BIM for design and FAB technology for the shop brings change to how an organization works, as it must evolve. However, change is hard for people.
The roadblocks are how people understand and adopt how their job will change from working with the 2D information, paper, to using tablet devices and allowing software programs to do the tedious heavy lifting with the 3D data, handing timesheets, task assignments, etc. This is a very tricky transition. MEP Contractors need training and technology to connect disparate teams in design, fabrication, and jobsite construction. The newly adopted technology offers collaboration tools to increase productivity, reduce construction costs, and provide automatic real-time status updates and valuable tracking and estimating information.
Best Practices for Running an Efficient Fab Shop
MEP Contractors implement the use of BIM modeling into modular construction projects to design and layout modular pre-fabrication for more efficient assembly and coordination purposes. They believe high-quality fabrication and precise scheduling form the foundation for quality project delivery – on time and on budget. By delivering precision-formed materials and pre-assembled modules to job sites on time, they can help owners control costs, ensure quality, and avoid construction site delays.
Fabrication facilities provide the efficiency and quality needed to ensure that projects are successful and maintain the highest fabrication quality throughout every project. Below are a few best practices for operating an efficient, modern fabrication facility:
- — Computer-driven detailed scheduling and installation flexibility
- — Tracking cost savings
- — High-quality control
- — Greater utilization of high tech equipment for Project Tracking, Labor Hours, BIM/CAD systems, and scheduling
- — Increased productivity
- — Material inventory and cost control
- — Scheduling advantages
When MEP Contractors set goals to leverage model-based data for improving the Fabrication shop, they need to focus on business value in connecting 3D data. Notable saving metrics include a 40% increase in productivity in the fabrication shop, a 90% reduction in Spool Sheet Creation Time vs. Competitive Methods, and a 20% reduction in Time Spent Communicating KPIs with Key Project Stakeholders on construction projects.