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As was pointed out in the opening column, change is required for survival. In the construction world, one of those changes is an increase in the use of modularization, which is the design or production of something in separate sections. The use of accurate 3D models, the current shortage of skilled labor and owners’ increasing demands for zero incident jobsites in conjunction with shorter schedules, has changed modularization from a luxury on many large projects to a necessity. There are numerous benefits to modularization for both the contractor and the end user, including:

  • Improved safety
  • Improved quality
  • Shorter overall construction schedule
  • Cost reduction
  • Staffing benefits
IMPROVED SAFETY & QUALITY

Many owners and contractors demand incident free jobsites and expend significant resources to achieve this goal. Modularization can improve safety through the benefits of operating in a more controlled environment. For small modular projects, this could be the confines of a climate controlled fabrication facility. For larger modular projects, it could be an off-site assembly yard, free from hazards posed by other activity on the site. In either case, construction sites are full of potential hazards, and work completed off-site, in a controlled environment, has exposure to fewer hazards – thereby reducing the potential for incidents and injuries.

Schedule

With today’s typical project lifecycles, projects are usually already behind on the day notice-to-proceed is given. Technology has increased the ability of A/E/C companies to provide shorter project durations, thus increasing the expectations of most owners. Schedule acceleration is another tremendous advantage of modularization. Take a simple pipe rack module for example, which can be fully assembled before the foundation work is ever completed. In this simple example, the project could realize months of savings in the event that soil stabilization or deep foundations are required.

Cost

Cost is usually a concern; modularization can be cost effective and actually save money. In some cases, the money saved through productivity increases and potentially lower wages in a given area can more than offset the shipping cost for the modules. In other cases, where the supporting structure is required to be substantially increased, the cost of modularization can be a premium, but the benefit to the schedule makes up for that premium through a reduction in time to market.

Staffing

Modularization can also alleviate staffing issues, which are currently plaguing nearly all contractors. The benefits of modularization with regard to staffing are twofold. First, the number of workers required is generally less due to the increase in productivity from working in a controlled environment. Second, many areas of the country are faced with more severe labor shortages than other areas. Utilizing modules allows a significant portion of the work to be completed away from the project site.

While modularization was once analogous with a pre-piped pump skid, today it is much more. A little pre-planning and some out-ofthe- box thinking have resulted in gargantuan modules assembled and shipped by Robinson Construction and others. These behemoths, like the ones featured below, no doubt create a sense of awe from even the least mechanically-minded passerby who happens to see one of them being transported.The time-lapse below features construction of a few pipe rack modules and a 650,000 lb process module that measured 56 ft x 54 ft x 45 ft tall. If you have a project that you think might be a good fit for modularization, give us a call! We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

 

This post first appeared in our quarterly publication, Robinson Report (Volume 15, Issue 4, 2017). View the full issue here.

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