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How to unlock MMC’s full potential: A Q&A

 Within Offsite Construction, having instant access to reliable and constructible data is key if the sector is to deliver on the levels of control, quality and safety expected. Read on, as Craig Johnson, our Business Development Manager, gives his thoughts…


Clients increasingly want confidence and control – how does offsite construction deliver this?

There are three things contractors and asset owners want confidence and control in: control in the factory, control out on site and controlled, high-quality structures. As an industry, construction is increasingly challenging, regulations are changing, there’s net zero policies to consider, and costs are rising every week. Now more than ever, you need the assurance and the confidence in the constructability of a structure, knowing that it will work on site.


Within the factory environment, the biggest benefit has to be the greater level of control you hold over the manufacturing process – you can spot things quicker and ensure you are continually delivering at a higher quality. All of this derives directly from the drawing board and drawing office at the very start of a project, whether that be structural concerns, acoustics, fire safety or sustainability. They are all factors to be considered and are fed throughout the project lifecycle. 


If we look at the ecosystem of construction, clients and contractors are still wedded to the idea of a ‘design and build’ model, where they entrust the completion of their building to subcontractors. It’s no secret that the supply chain is increasingly fragmented, with labour shortages and a decline in the quality of skills. You will encounter subcontractors with their own subcontractors or self-employed workforce. Along the way, you naturally lose that element of control, especially when working out on a live construction site. With offsite construction and reliable digital data, we can offer greater guarantees of control and certainty when delivering products, modules and buildings.


Data is truly key when it comes to control, and it’s all about how you use this data throughout the manufacturing process. For example, through the use of tablets and QR codes, offsite manufacturers can gain instant access to the associated model, drawings and information – everything is live and interconnected. This level of control is only possible with the corresponding architecture in the digital world, enabling you to achieve that level of detail.


How does the ‘golden thread’ fit into this and how is this achieved?

Again, it’s all about data and the control of data. With the recent changes in safety regulations, it’s forcing the industry to keep and transfer data for longer periods of time. As such, it’s important to have digital software and workflows that can generate, keep and exchange this data efficiently and correctly.


Given the new building regulations, having a really robust golden thread of information will become an absolute priority for manufacturers, contractors and clients. This will provide building owners and operators with the confidence that their building is safe, robust and will stand the test of time. Understandably, collecting all these millions of threads and pieces of information can become really difficult without the right design partner or right design software.


You’ve talked about the changing building regulations. What about the new fire safety standards?

Over the last few years, there has been a big emphasis within construction on using systems and products that are tested and accredited – both when it comes to the structure itself and fire safety. The latter has of course become a critical topic for the industry in recent years. 


When it comes to fire detailing and fire structural integrity, accuracy is essential. With 3D modelling software, such as Tekla Structures, users can accurately coordinate and manage (before they even step onto the factory shop floor) the distance between all fire stopping components, ensure they are fixed correctly, and that there are no clashes or other issues. When it comes to fire safety, it has to be perfectly precise – even a couple of millimetres out could have real consequences.  


Construction is inherently a risky business – how can this risk be managed?

When you’re looking at engineering a structural design, you’re essentially looking at how you can de-risk the project. Here, collaboration is invaluable, as well as streamlined communication, with companies each needing to take full responsibility for their specific RIBA workflow stage/s.


A great example of this in action is Design4Structures, a user of our Tekla software portfolio for many years. Uniquely, Design4Structures takes accountability and responsibility for RIBA Stages 1 to 7, offering structural engineering and detailing services all under one roof.


Typically, structural engineering as a discipline can be very much a single entity, meaning offsite manufacturers are often having to find and plug-in the additional detailing work required – with the potential for data and control to be lost along the way. Through approaches like that offered by Design4Structures, project parties can develop a true collaboration. By placing trust in the data provided, teams can de-risk projects earlier and find better ways to deliver the work that are more cost effective and sustainable.  


Where do you see next few years taking offsite? 

I think the next few years are going to be really telling for the construction industry. Developers are already more aware that they need to move towards achieving higher pre-manufactured value, whether that’s through using panelised systems or fully volumetric modules. Productivity is effectively flat lining and the issues with new labour and skills coming through is becoming more of a conversation topic every year.


For manufacturers and contractors, it’s key that we move to a world where they work in a more interoperable way. It’s the idea of taking the best of everyone’s knowledge and using this to bring forward and deliver the best solutions. Of course, the key is going to be how we can capture data, leverage it and use it within the digital space, and how we learn from each other in the marketplace.


Either way, I think it’s clear that offsite is here to stay.



To learn more about Tekla software for offsite construction, visit Offsite Expo in September 2024, where Trimble is exhibiting at Stand F16.



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