Construction’s Digital Manufacturing Revolution | The B1M


The world we build impacts almost every human
being on this planet. From the environments that we call home, to the way we travel, generate
our energy, drive our economies and shape our children, it is the construction sector
that underpins the direction of our societies. But despite its fundamental impact on our
way of life, our approach to construction has changed little over the ages, and we still
use many of the same techniques and materials to build prototype structures in volatile
outdoor environments. Now, as our planet experiences unprecedented change, the sector is embracing rapid advances in digital technologies and making a bold shift towards the world of manufacturing,
merging the two to usher in a new dawn. For centuries, the way we construct our world
has remained largely unchanged. Still using many of the same materials and processes,
each project that the construction sector undertakes requires the delivery of a unique
product in a unique outdoor location. Moving works away from the challenges of each site
and into controlled conditions offers many benefits. Economies of scale can be achieved
through automated production lines. Productivity can be significantly improved, and quality
can be ensured. Such an approach also reduces the amount of time that a project is on site
for, helping to lower costs, negate site-specific challenges and to minimise disruption. The
extent to which construction works are taken away from their final sites varies hugely.
While volumetric solutions create entire enclosed spaces remotely and then deliver those to
site for installation, non-volumetric systems are large elements of a building or structure
that are prefabricated before being brought to site. On a more granular level, component-based
approaches and platform systems create a kit of parts and draw from a series of predetermined
items that are consistent across a number of projects. Each of these offsite construction
approaches offer different benefits and each has its advantages depending on the type of
project being built. However, non-volumetric and component-based approaches can retain
the benefits of offsite production while offering the adaptability needed across the many different types of site that the construction industry contends with. But despite the seemingly compelling
benefits over several decades, the concept of offsite construction has struggled to find
traction. Now, with many countries facing rising populations, housing crises and a lack
of skilled people coming into their construction workforces, and with technology coming to
the fore, there is renewed excitement in the concept. It is technology in particular that
is helping to make the step change and overcome the long-established barriers. The rise of
automation is hugely increasing productivity on production lines, while digital design
information is helping to streamline processes and increase accuracy. It is in this way that
the concept of offsite construction is rapidly evolving into offsite manufacturing, a shift
that sees the construction process move much closer to the approaches of the manufacturing
sector and the techniques it has honed. That shift can be clearly witnessed at the UK’s
Explore Industrial Park (EIP). Conceived and owned by Laing O’Rourke, a global general
contractor with some 13,000 staff and an £8 billion pipeline, the vast factory is the
most automated concrete products facility in Europe. Since opening in 2009, Explore
has manufactured concrete elements for some of the UK’s most impressive projects, including
London’s 48-storey Leadenhall skyscraper and Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. Explore Industrial Park is one of the most
advanced precast manufacturing facilities in Europe. It allows the Laing O’Rourke group
to control its own supply chain to a large extent. We can react quite quickly to requirements
on site as a result of that. With EIP, Laing O’Rourke has managed to move
70% of its onsite manufacture to an offsite means, and that’s brought a 60% increase in
productivity and a 30% increase in accuracy to the delivery schedule. What sets us apart from other precast manufacturers
is our use of automation through machinery on the factory floor, also software tools
that we’re using, and we do a lot of engineering of our processes to ensure we are as efficient
as possible. Automation is very much a part of that paradigm
shift and having the right automation can eliminate most of the issues a typical design
process would encounter. So, human error, uncertainty, your factor of risk, everything
else is just eliminated when you have a reliable, precise system doing it for you. Throughout the last ten years, Explore Industrial
Park has continually evolved and innovated, embracing automation and digital technologies
as they have matured. Repetition, honed processes, quality control and a consistent flow of work
are all key to the facility’s success. In this context, it is critical that the design
information shared with the production teams, that is used to cast and form concrete components,
is accurate. For major projects, like Manchester Airport’s Transformation Programme and Liverpool’s
new specialist cancer hospital, both of which are currently moving through the factory,
the importance of accurate digital data could not be more acute. Errors in production can
slow the overall progress of projects, affect other activities out on the construction site
and mess up the factory’s work schedule, costing time and money. Because we’re at the point where things are
cast in concrete, as they would say, it’s quite important that we assess every single
facet of the design. From a project landing at Explore we would meet
with the site team, the clients, architects and structural engineering consultancies,
as well as interfacing disciplines. We’d go through the product set, look for similarities
between different component types and we try to rationalise them. This allows us to achieve
a level of standardisation across a project. We take the concept that the architects and
the engineers want to enforce and bring that to reality. So we have to think about how
manufacturable it is, how handleable it is and how viable it is for the build. A typical manufacturer would generally produce
one product type in one precast factory. This precast factory, we produce multiple so we
can supply all the precasts on the project. That allows a certain level of coordination
between the different product sets. Other things that set us apart are the complexity
of the products that we’re willing to manufacture. Traditionally, precast concrete, it’s fairly
simple geometries. We do a lot of architectural product here at Explore that you might not
find elsewhere. From the outset of a project, Laing O’ Rourke’s
teams consider which elements could be fabricated away from the construction site. Working within
the broad parameters of what the factory can achieve, they then develop detailed design
information models, to inform both the construction and operation process and the manufacturing
of components. To ensure the accuracy of their digital information, the team use Solibri
Office to validate its contents. Pulling information from various different members of the design
team into a single combined or federated information model in Solibri, the tool can then be used
to check the quality of that data, communicate any issues, enable quantity take-off and classify components. With their design information quality checked, the team then issue digital
production information directly to the factory floor, where the process of component manufacture begins. From the cutting and fabrication of steel reinforcement cages, including placement
of the ties, to the distribution of concrete across the factory, the pouring of that concrete
and the process of curing it, Laing O’Rourke’s manufacturing process is highly automated,
helping projects delivered through Explore to take significant strides in productivity.
Once produced, the building elements are loaded onto vehicles, taking into account the order
that they will need to be unloaded in, and are transported to their sites. Those on the
ground in the project’s location are able to seamlessly engage with, and see the data about
their scheme, through tools like Solibri Anywhere, which enables access by any member of a project
team, wherever they may be, and Solibri Site, specifically tailored to those working in
the field. The geographic positioning of Explore in the very centre of the UK is deliberate,
and the factory has created components for sites in both the south of England and in
Scotland. From the outset of the design process, right through manufacturing, to the delivery
and installation of components on site and the operation of the built asset afterwards,
the entire process is informed by digital data. The success of such projects is therefore
dependent on the quality of the data used and the idea of not quality checking or validating
it, seems very risky. If something’s inaccurate, it can not only
be at the detriment of your product and your quality and your safety, but it’s immediately
visible in your coordination checks. I mean, as a species, we’re quite a visual species,
so now that we’re doing everything in 3D, it needs to be spot on or you will know about
it. One of the things that we use Solibri for is checking the quality of the incoming information. So, prior to us receiving the
information at Explore we provide the consulting engineers or architects with a library of
standard objects, produce a BIM object library. We then pass that back to the consulting engineers, they populate their model and then provide us that information. We’d also do checks between
the different precast elements for construction joints to make sure that’s as per the agreed
details. You are able to streamline the design in the
best way possible and ensure that everything works before it’s tangible in any way, shape
or form. So, for us it’s very key that we get the models and all our theoretical understanding
of the entire structure spot on before we get anywhere near the floor sites. Once all the issues have been closed out,
then we will transfer the model through into our precast RC detailing platform. We add
more detail to the models and we’d be adding information such as casting fixtures, reinforcing
bars, basically to get a digital model as to what we’re trying to produce actually out
in the factory. Having a safe system that is able to carry
out these checks for us eliminates the possibility of human error and uncertainty, giving us
a much better outcome in the way that the product is built. Information not being right
has impacts to every single facet of the system, because if you think about not just the safety
and the economy of the whole thing, it’s the environmental impact as well. So, to move
six tons of concrete all the way down to a project, let’s say, in London or up in Edinburgh, and
to have it wrong on site wastes a lot of time and money. So, it’s always
key that we get it right the first time. Explore Industrial Park effectively sees
two of construction’s most disruptive new innovations come together under one roof: offsite manufacturing, enabled and further advanced by digital technology. Run on digital data, Laing O’Rourke’s use
of Solibri during design, manufacture and final assembly is key to ensuring the process
runs smoothly, underpinning the success of countless projects. Indeed, as our world becomes
ever more dependent on data, ensuring the accuracy of that data, so that it can serve
us in the best ways possible, is critical. It’s about having controlled conditions, controlled
quality, precision, all of the good things you get from a factory setting that you may
not ideally have the ability to implement on site. There’s quite a lot of complexity in the systems
that we have based at EIP. As a factory we look at ourselves as any other
factory, the same way an automotive factory would look at the way they manufacture things.
While we are indeed in a very archaic industry, that hasn’t changed much since the Egyptians,
we are trying to be the best we can be by looking at industries that are fundamentally
ahead of the game in the way they produce things. So we’re not trying to just be the
best construction concrete facility we can be, we’re actually trying to be the best manufacturing
company we can be. The approaches employed at Explore Industrial
Park that can offer improvements in productivity of 60% could be the answer to making a step change in overall performance across the wider industry. With others now following suit and
with the trend gaining in momentum across the sector worldwide, combining the power
of digital technologies with the approaches that have made manufacturing so successful,
is seemingly ushering in a digital manufacturing revolution in construction that could transform
the built world, shaping all of our lives.

46 Replies to “Construction’s Digital Manufacturing Revolution | The B1M”

  1. This is the future of construction.

    Development like this can automate construction for colonization of terrestrial planets in the future.

    Elon Musk, you watching this channel?

  2. Amazing video as always, im still baffled of the quality of these. Reminds me of those good old docu series such as Extreme engineering back in the day in Discovery. Keep up the good work B1M ! 🙂

  3. I can't help but think that as wonderful as this technology can be, it could also put a lot of people out of work. Can someone give me more details on this?

  4. Me like your narration. Your narration very good.
    Your scripts are always very very good aswell, Ive only now just realised.

  5. This is by far the best program you have ever produced… I really enjoy seeing how big corporate industry is trying to move into the digital era… the next two things I would like to see is the transportation logistics involved in moving these controlled off site builds being assembled on site… Traditional methods of transportation logistics are not yet fit for purpose in this scale. Also for purposes of viewings as many more subscribers will relate to it. Can you show us, or are there domestic residential builders adopting these modular technics where you have a standard Model A;B;C variations being built offsite and assembled with different skins/ brickwork , to make them all look and feel different onsite. But the structural integrity and underlying designs are identical to benefit cost reduction. For construction building "Order to Cash" is the most single important aspect as commercially they have so much overhead locked in WIP. I appreciate there are tranches in project delivery to alleviate this congestion, but it still needs to speed up. Bankers will find this easier to finance as well. its the oldest question on the planet, How long to market.

  6. What wasn't mentioned is the importance of architects and structural engineers becoming familiar with these processes so that they can design buildings that take advantage of more efficient construction. The more components that can be manufactured offsite, the faster a build should happen. I would think.

  7. I'm student in construction university and looking for a job, please let me know where can find a job for first step

  8. Somebody give these guys some money to travel so they can show us the best achievements around the Word firsthand.
    (Do not get me wrong UK is also fascinating.)

  9. Always looking forward to your videos B1M, never been disappointed till this day. One Million subscriber mark and beyond is certain.

  10. Its basically the constructions industry trying to apply Lego Digital Designer, MLCAD or LDraw into their practices/workflow.

  11. This film was given a world premiere at London's Ham Yard Theatre on 6 November 2019. Watch our live broadcast from the event here 👉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwKl_0HFr7s

  12. Although I believe in automation and off-site manufacturing, this video seems to forget that there is no sustainable future in concrete.

  13. The advantage of this new ideas is that it will address critical safety issues associated with unskilled labour and create employment however we cannot be complacent -like in the auto industry the danger of 'architectural recalls' may become common if the approach is left entirely to non architectural and civil works experts-it calls for superior controls,a critical eye for quality over quantity and best technological practices down to the millimeter-because it is about where we live and the time we spend there when the dust settles at the construction site.

  14. Makes me optimistic for building in the future. It will be great to not spend 30 years paying down a mortgage if manufacturing buildings becomes much cheaper.

  15. While I appreciate that the plant is an interesting example of automation, I have to say I'm really saddened that you used concrete an the example. It's responsible for between 8 and 9% of global CO₂ production and everyone in the design team needs to work harder to use less of it.

  16. The production value on all of these videos is always so high! I'm not sure if it's all you or you have a great team, but either way, keep it up!

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