Design for Manufacturing and Assembly Models (DfMA) Driving Change in Construction

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly Models (DfMA) Driving Change in Construction

07th August 2018

Following the collapse of Carillion and last year’s Grenfell Tower fire, it’s obvious that the construction industry’s delivery model for building better quality housing on time and at speed needs to change.  There is a clear political will to see more homes built rapidly using modern construction methods, but the industry itself needs to display its commitment to adopting manufacturing style methods.  This could be through the use of a design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA)-led model or through the production of unites in controlled factory conditions that are transported to site for assembly (a volumetric process). 

In most instances the delivery of new homes relies on a design-and-build model which has become a “risk cascade”, rather than being a method that places design responsibility with the right party to drive innovative solutions.  The design-and-build model often results in the main contractor lacking control over the desired outcomes in time and quality.  This traditional approach to risk and margin often leads to clients choosing to purchase the cheapest option.  Tendering-led procurement models tend to provide clients with less clarity over what they are procuring, a model which can be detrimental to both progress and wide-scale adoption of the DfMA model.

DfMA involves standardising components for manufactured homes in a bid to move towards a more efficient procurement and construction model.  A DfMA approach can improve the certainty of the outcome of a project whilst reducing waste, time on site and construction cost.  Standardisation of this type requires fewer unique components, reducing the labour intensity and the complexity during the assembly process.  This results in a lower assembly time and more certainty on the cost and the build programme, while enabling an enhanced level of quality assurance for the end product.  The requirement for a more efficient procurement process is becoming more urgent as the construction industry is relying on an ageing workforce and a steadily decreasing pool of migrant labour.

Here at Safety Fabrications, we’ve been reporting on the burgeoning skills shortage within the construction industry for the past several years.  As we have warned in the past, this is predicted to get worse after Brexit and we have been championing the Apprenticeship Programme as one of the elements which could go a long way towards addressing the situation.  Making a career in construction a more attractive option is essential and the industry will need to collaborate with the education department, schools and colleges in order to get the message across to youngsters and school leavers.  More construction companies offering work experience to school children who are at the stage of considering their future careers would also have a beneficial effect. 

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to respond to modernisation incentives but has been more open to change and progress in the past decade as digital technology has driven progress and change.  DfMA adoption can be the first step towards creating more integrated, digitally-led delivery models, promoting digital assembly and machining capabilities, while reducing the costs of component parts.