In today’s construction market, the pace is swift and the pressure to deliver even faster is on the rise. Businesses can’t afford to stick to traditional construction methods when there’s a more efficient way to do things. And that’s what PPMOF delivers: aggressive schedules, cost certainty, improved quality and safety, and the ability to leverage the talents of the full project team.
At CRB, we’ve been implementing PPMOF strategies on our projects since we first started offering construction services. It’s an integral part of our ONEsolution integrated project delivery method, so we see the benefits of PPMOF first-hand daily, but those who aren’t on site every day may not fully understand the concept. Before implementing PPMOF on your project, it’s important to understand the basics.
- Differences between prefabrication, preassembly, modularization, and offsite fabrication
- Advantages of a PPMOF approach
- How to prepare to use PPMOF strategies successfully
- What elements of the project work well with PPMOF strategies
What is PPMOF?
PPMOF stands for prefabrication, preassembly, modularization, and offsite fabrication. These four terms describe different approaches in design and construction. Here’s what they mean and why they matter.
A manufacturing process, generally taking place at a specialized facility, in which various materials are joined to form a component part of a final installation. Prefabricated components often involve the work of a single craft.
A process by which various materials, prefabricated components, and/or equipment are joined together at a remote location for subsequent installation as a sub-unit; generally focused on a system.
A major section of a plant resulting from a series of remote assembly operations. These may include portions of many systems and are usually the largest transportable unit or component of a facility.
SlateXpace modular multimodal manufacturing suites showcase this kind of construction.
The practice of preassembly or fabrication of components both off the site and onsite at a location other than the final installation location.
Why should you implement PPMOF strategies on construction projects?
Picture a typical stick-built construction site. Work takes place in the open air, or once the building is closed, without functioning heating, cooling, and exhaust systems. Multiple trades must maneuver around one another to get the work done. People are on ladders and lifts, or crawling through small spaces, and a foreman is constantly moving around trying to oversee several workers at once. And because some work must happen sequentially, permitting and supply chain issues affecting one trade can have a knock-on effect on the others, disrupting once-streamlined schedules.
Now picture a manufacturing shop. It’s designed to support the tasks at hand. Tools and materials are in reach, and multiple trades people don’t need to maneuver around each other. Work benches are built ergonomically to meet the needs of the trades. And managers can supervise work easily and efficiently. What’s more, several of these well-designed shops work in parallel on specific sections of the build.
This kind of efficiency pays great dividends for large and small projects alike.
Working offsite saves valuable time because it allows for parallel workflows. Prefabrication can happen at the same time the team is digging and constructing the building shell. Weather dependencies are a thing of the past, and a material delay for one trade has little effect on another. These parallel workflows often allow us to shave weeks off the schedule, which translates into earlier move in dates for our clients.
Off-site construction can have especially significant impacts on the schedule of greenfield projects requiring a lot of site permitting and development. Much can be achieved through parallel activities of modularization of plant utilities, for example, which can be in fabrication long before the site is ready to accommodate similar construction activities.
A PPMOF approach requires clients and partners to work together early in the design process. Instead of a traditional design-bid-build method, the team works with trusted partners and leverages their areas of expertise throughout the design phase. Costs are estimated and negotiated in parallel, and the design is updated accordingly. This collaborative method and shared commitment to a successful outcome can uncover efficiencies and introduce innovative approaches that lead to a superior final result.
With decisions made up front, all partners can commit to costs. A project starts with a more accurate budget, and change orders are less frequent because the entire team is involved earlier.
At a shop, staff punch in and head to an optimum-height bench where tools and materials are waiting. The space is climate controlled and comfortable. The supervisor can easily oversee the team and troubleshoot as needed. And of course, there is no time required for gowning at every break. And with most potentially messy work—and people— offsite, it significantly reduces the risks on site.
Productivity in the shop is up to 2.5x what we see in the field.
This approach applies a manufacturing mindset to construction. Rather than sending a new team to a new site and having to determine a fresh set of logistics every time, the same trained teams repeat tasks in the same environment. This standardized approach allows for constant improvements and efficiencies which benefit the bottom line.
In facility construction, productivity is a particular challenge for brownfield renovation projects. The potential for contaminating the operating parts of the facility adds complications to day-to-day construction work. Gowning, secure entry for equipment and tools, and isolation procedures add significant non-productive time to any project.
In the controlled environment of a shop, injury rates are lower than on construction sites. Onsite, you may have trades working overhead, there is more work on ladders and scaffolding, and there are ergonomic challenges in working at height or in confined spaces. Different teams not used to working alongside one another, at an unfamiliar site, and dealing with variable conditions, all contribute to safety challenges. On renovation projects, reducing the amount of work done onsite lowers risk to existing operations and for the staff that need to navigate into a facility adjacent to the project site.
A shop environment allows staff to work in optimum, repeatable conditions, resulting in a quality level that’s higher than a field-erected system. Work is inspected and tested and any corrections are made before anything leaves the shop, resulting in a higher quality facility and a better bottom line.
Access to experienced skilled trades people
In some parts of the country, it’s extremely difficult to source skilled trades people. And convincing the most experienced people to travel long distances to a job site and work away from home and family for long periods of time is a challenge.
PPMOF can help alleviate this problem by providing a stable, well-trained workforce in a factory environment near urban centers where the talent pool lives and where the training programs that produce tomorrow’s skilled workers are well established. These contractors build teams that become accustomed to working together and offer apprentice programs to continuously feed the industry. And you reap the benefits of high-quality work completed by a well-trained team, regardless of where your project is located.
Preparing for a successful PPMOF project
PPMOF is a collaborative effort. Input from the entire project team, including trade partners, happens at the start of the project. As a team, we work together to plan and scope the project, identify areas that are right for PPMOF, and then negotiate costs. With this lean construction strategy, be prepared to make decisions and involve stakeholders earlier in the process than you might be used to.
Early on-boarding of field construction partners and shop fabricators generates ideas and allows you to take advantage of every expert at your disposal. Team members have clear expectations and understand where their work fits into the bigger picture, making their contributions even more valuable. And everyone is equally invested in a successful outcome.
What can be prefabricated, preassembled, modularized or built offsite?
From piping runs to entire clean rooms, there are hundreds of building and equipment elements that can be prefabricated. Get in touch with our experts to learn more.