Many are rediscovering prefabrication benefits

Sometimes, time-tested ideas are worth revisiting. Such is the case with prefabrication for construction projects.

Prefabrication historically has been a tried-and-true method for contractors to hand off production and assembly of certain components or materials to subcontractors or original equipment manufacturers. This work would involve prefabrication of a broad range of components by multiple trades in controlled shop environments before these modules or skids were shipped to the job site.

For a variety of reasons, the construction industry moved away from prefabrication for a time. Now, the industry is moving back toward the prefabrication model, with more components being prefabricated and oftentimes preassembled in controlled offsite environments. Several factors are contributing to this shift, including a chronic shortage of skilled trades and crafts available in the numbers needed on large construction projects. 

Today’s version of prefab is effectively redefining how plants, facilities and structures get built. The industry is coming full circle, with design for manufacturing assembly concepts taking hold. The cost, precision, quality and safety of prefabrication and preassembly make this decision an easy one for owners and general contractors, and AZCO is among the leaders in this movement. With more than 83,000 square feet of prefabrication space and highly skilled teams of pipefitters, welders, electricians and others working together on complex assemblies, AZCO is helping lead this concept toward more relevance than ever.

Here are the four primary benefits of prefabrication:

Improved safety
Fabricating and producing components in a controlled shop environment greatly reduces hazards both in the shop and on the job site. Fewer trades are required at the project location, and trades working in offsite facilities are spread out.

Greater quality
A critical enabling factor for prefab work, including at AZCO, is moving to 3D — digital models of the component that are used for precise specifications. With closer collaboration between engineering and fabrication centers, the interface between conceptual design and various stages of production and then to a bill of materials is streamlined. With that knowledge packaged and integrated, fewer errors and less rework will result.

Schedule efficiency
With greater control over production schedules for materials produced in shops or controlled assembly environments, modules and skids can be scheduled precisely for delivery to the project site. With specialty trades such as electrical, plumbing, welding and ironwork providing the know-how, components are now being produced for just-in-time shipment and installation upon arrival at the project site. With real-time knowledge of the status of component assembly and delivery, crews can be kept busy at all times, with no slippage in the ultimate completion deadlines.

Improved cost control
By transferring resources and labor away from costly field installation of components toward the front end, where these project elements are designed and built in more controlled environments, many cost benefits can be quantified. 

AZCO has introduced new technology such as plasma cutters and robotic machines into previously labor-intensive fabrication processes, reducing production times by a factor of 10 or more. With prep work now done in a few minutes, versus a full day, trades now spend their time on specialized tasks like welding and assembly. This reduction of labor has
a direct benefit in cost savings. 

Prefabrication is another one of those time-tested ideas that is being rediscovered — proving its worth all over again. 

Company: AZCO
Innovation: Prefabrication

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