In the automotive and aerospace industries, digital prototyping and design for manufacture are deeply embedded within the supply chain, as well as automation, robotics and lean manufacturing techniques. Design, manufacture and assembly are so streamlined, production lines can be set up anywhere in the world where it is economic to do so.
An extension of these concepts has become known as Industry 4.0. This is being driven by digitisation and integration of vertical and horizontal value chains, digitisation of product and service offerings and the development of new digital business models and customer access platforms.
A recent PwC industry survey1 concluded that engineering and construction companies are embracing Industry 4.0 concepts. They found BIM and the integration of design and off-site component-based assembly are evolving fast. At the same time, new innovations offer future integration and productivity opportunities and the increased ability to monitor assets over the life cycle rather than just the construction phase. Autonomous vehicles can provide driverless transportation of materials between sites and on-site. Flying robots and drone surveillance offer the prospect of easier planning, design, monitoring and execution of projects as well use in repairs and maintenance activities.
The digitisation, integration and automation opportunities enable companies to collaborate both internally and across their value chains in ways that can provide a step change in productivity as well as design and build quality. These opportunities are increasingly important as companies seek to stay relevant as the era of digitally-connected smart infrastructure develops.
“The digitisation, integration and automation opportunities enable companies to collaborate both internally and across their value chains in ways that can provide a step change in productivity as well as design and build quality. These opportunities are increasingly important as companies seek to stay relevant as the era of digitallyconnected smart infrastructure develops.”
Professor Tuan Ngo, Research Director, CAMPH.
Product development and engineering are areas where engineering and construction companies are furthest advanced down the digitisation and integration road. Digital solutions include features such as 5/6D modelling, construction sequencing, and progress monitoring and virtual rehearsal.
Industry 4.0 concepts can also reach further into the built environment with the advent of built-in sensors and automation enabling engineering and construction companies to develop products and services that cover the life cycle of buildings and infrastructure assets, integrating with energy management, repair and maintenance and wider smart building and smart city applications.
Most importantly, it has been estimated by McKinsey and Company that by taking a manufacturing approach to construction (including digital design, new materials and automation) productivity in some sectors of the industry can be boosted by 5 to 10 fold.
THE ARC-CAMPH AND OUR CURRENT ACTIVITIES
The ARC Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing (ARC-CAMPH) has been working with partners to increase the productivity of the construction industry by adopting the Industry 4.0 concept. Our centre’s partners are pioneering new technologies which allow them to build quicker and more efficiently, higher quality, more durable, safer, healthier and have lower operating costs. Using advanced manufacturing techniques and DfMA, they benefit from faster construction times, reduced wastage. They also have access to the Centre’s testing laboratory capable of testing and certifying a range of construction materials and components.
Both locally and internationally the lack of a multidisciplinary approach and resistance at customer level have been identified as major impediments to the adoption of prefabricated construction techniques. Our Centre’s approach is to bring together a “whole of supply chain” in a continuous innovation and adoption cycle.
Testing of a prefab component at the University of Melbourne
In collaboration with our partners, the ARC-CAMPH is developing novel materials, new designs and processes of manufacture, such as:
- New prefabricated modular floor, frame, facade, wall and building service systems, which are lighter, reusable, durable, easier to transport, quicker to manufacture and assemble, have greater energy efficiency and reduced costs.
- Innovative design for manufacturing and assembly
- Risk, safety, optimisation tools, and contracting and procurement models for the prefab construction industry.
NON-COMPLIANT BUILDING PRODUCTS
There is considerable evidence of the problems related to the use of non-compliant materials. After the Lacrosse building fire in Dockland in 2014, a recent report by the Victorian Building Authority found through an audit of 170 CBD buildings in Melbourne that 51 per cent were found to contain non-complying cladding which poses a fire risk2. Further audits are planned in Victoria and these audits are likely to be replicated in other states. This is becoming a global problem after the fire in an apartment tower in Dubai in 2015 and the Grenfell Tower fire in London on 14 June 2017.
“Both locally and internationally the lack of a multi-disciplinary approach and resistance at customer level have been identified as major impediments to the adoption of prefabricated construction techniques. Our Centre’s approach is to bring together a “whole of supply chain” in a continuous innovation and adoption cycle.”
Professor Tuan Ngo, Research Director, CAMPH.
In Australia, a Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into NonConforming Building Products has been established and an interim report was published in 20163 . One of the terms of reference for this Inquiry is the economic impact of nonconforming products.
In addressing the economic impact a number of submissions to this inquiry refer to The Australian Industry Group’s report4 that quoted one major builder who estimated the average cost of re-work due to non-conforming products was between 0.25% and 2.5% of the overall contract value. The Australian Institute of Building5 estimated that this equates to a total cost of between $207 million and $2.06 Billion pa to Australian builders for re-working due to faulty building products. This does not include the costs of re-work 5, 10 or 20 years later, or the costs to the economy of the effects on human health and safety.
In addition, recent research in Australia and elsewhere6 has shown that the embodied energy of construction processes for houses is equivalent to 10-15 years of operating energy. Therefore, reducing embodied energy in the construction process has now come into focus as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.
Many companies, especially SMEs, are currently unable to access the full range of testing (especially assembly/system tests), certification services and related consulting services in a cost effective and timely manner. Our centre is working hard to set-up a network of testing facilities around the country to be able to assist the construction industry to address this issue.■
- PwC 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey – Industry key findings
- Victorian Building Authority. External wall cladding audit report, February 2016. http://www.vba.vic.gov.au/a-z-information/audit-ofcladding-on-high-rise-buildings
- Parliament of Australia. Non-conforming building products, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/ Economics/Non-conforming_products
- The Australian Industry Group The quest for a level playing field; The non-conforming building products dilemma 2013
- Australian Institute of Building Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Products 2015
- Sattary, S and Thorpe, D (2011) Reducing embodied energy in Australian building construction In: Egbu, C. and Lou, E.C.W. (Eds.) Procs 27th Annual ARCOM Conference, 5-7 September 2011, Bristol, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 10551064.
Professor Tuan Ngo Research Director of the ARC Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing