Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) is used as the foundation for concurrent engineering processes to simplify and fully optimise the structure wherever possible, to reduce manufacturing and assembly costs and to quantify improvements.

To ensure that DfMA is integrated at every opportunity during the design and development path,

B&K Structures have developed some innovative processes to quantify design decisions - Managing Director, Andrew Goodwin discusses the benefits:

Optimising Structural Specification Performance

Design for Manufacture and Assembly is an approach that facilitates greater offsite manufacturing, minimising onsite construction. Buildings are constructed with higher levels of safety and speed - the process delivers both resource and cost efficiencies but does not impede creative design aspirations or compromise on quality.

As well as delivering projects faster, lowering costs together with improving quality and sustainability - the use of DfMA techniques also results in better operational and in-use outcomes.  The recent RIBA Plan of Work incorporating Designing for Manufacture and Assembly, was developed to help the industry take the next evolutionary step towards 'assembly' rather than 'construction'.

Historically many have questioned why the built environment sector does not reflect the manufacturing methods of the aerospace and automotive industries - where cars and planes are assembled in huge factories predominantly by robots. Innovations in panel and modular components, supported by new offsite manufacturing technology with semi-automated assembly production processes - now make this achievable to some extent. However, size limitations are dictated by transportation restrictions and there has to be a mindset and process change, now that buildings no longer have to be constructed in situ – this is where the RIBA Plan of Works and Assembly overlay comes in.

The plan identifies seven core stages of the build process, from the preparation of the brief and concept to technical design and construction stages. These stages are mapped out against core objectives such as the DfMA strategy, the integration of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and procurement tasks for DfMA.

Integrated Design

Crucial to DfMA principles, information transfer and share - designing with BIM is a collaborative way of working, underpinned by the digital technologies which unlock more efficient methods of creating and maintaining assets. BIM embeds key product details and asset data to create 3D Models that can be used for effective management of information throughout a project lifecycle – from earliest concept through to operation.

3D Models can be shared by construction partners with further detailing being added along the design journey. Building Information Modelling technology and CNC machines ensure structural components are manufactured to exacting tolerances to guarantee the details of connections are precise. This is of particular relevance in hybrid structures where high levels of technical advancement, innovation and rigorous planning through a strict programme of works are required to ?nish builds on time.

Taking the Build Offsite – The Future of Construction

Adopting an offsite approach supported by Design for Manfuacture and Assembly principles simply means harnessing design rationalisation, material optimisation and just-in-time delivery planning in order to achieve high rates of productivity onsite.

At a time when our industry is facing a skills shortage, taking the build offsite into a factory controlled environment, reduces the levels of resource required and is not dependent on traditional construction skills. Developing solutions that are ‘assembled’ rather than ‘constructed’ offers the prospect of using fewer people in a more controlled and safer environment.

When combined with increased productivity and enhanced quality – it is easy to see why the recent Housing White Paper and the Farmer Report aptly entitled Modernise or Die – outlined the government’s commitment to support offsite factory built homes.

The alignment of market need and political will is clear and compelling, signalling a real opportunity for a steep change in the adoption of offsite construction methods, as evidenced by Sajid Javid’s statement to Parliament, where he said: “We will support efficient, innovative and under-used methods of construction, such as offsite factory builds.”

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Article Author
Andrew Goodwin

About the Author

Andy has been Managing Director of B&K Structures since 2017. He previously occupied the role of Commercial Director and has been with the business since 2003.