Building Live: Discussing DfMA and the Implications for the Supply Chain

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About Prater Posted by Prater on December 12th 2017

On Tuesday 28th November, our Technical Director Stuart Whiting took part in a panel discussion at Building Live, to debate the digitisation of construction, Design for Manufacture (DfMA) and its impact on the supply chain.

The construction industry is often characterised for its poor productivity, inefficiencies, and with projects and costs overrunning. To meet the Government’s 2025 productivity goals, we need to look at new ways of working. The digitisation of construction processes combined with DfMA offer part of the potential solution.

The aim of the discussion at Building Live was to throw a spotlight on what the potential implications are for the supply chain. Chaired by John Lorimer from the BIM Academy, the panel included: 

  • Stuart Whiting, Technical Director, Prater
  • Ian Heptonstall, Director, the Offsite Management School
  • Alex Small, BIM and Digital Platforms Manager, Tata Steel
  • Rob Ewen, Delivery Director, Heathrow Expansion Programme, Mace
  • Richard Crosby, Director, Blacc Consulting, consultant to The Education Funding Agency 

Stuart commented after the event: “The panel session provided an ideal platform for me to share Prater’s views; primarily that we can all achieve greater prosperity and success through digital processes and DfMA.

As a business we have long championed the benefits in terms of efficiency, speed, as well as the impact digitisation can have on health and safety and achieving consistent high quality.

Furthermore, we are all painfully aware of the skills shortage. Attracting new people into the industry is difficult – but the scope and scale of introducing BIM and DfMA opens up a whole new world of career prospects for individuals.

However to truly realise our potential we need to proactively embrace these changes. We’ve always been a risk adverse industry but a construction project is never delivered by one individual business – we have to work together.

For example, we’re often brought in on a project at RIBA Stage 4, not knowing the overall mission and values of the project. It’s easy to talk about collaborative working. However in reality, putting this into practice, in what has traditionally been an adversarial industry, can sometimes prove incredibly challenging.

This is why digitising processes and DfMA depends as much upon the people involved as it does the process.

We can’t simply talk about collaboration – we have to put what we preach into practice. We need clients and main contractors to drive this through contractual obligations; to align the supply chain objectives; ensure teams do understand the overall mission and values of the project and then normalise this approach.

These changes need to happen right from senior level through to those working on the ground. One of the challenges we face is many of the teams on site just want to be supplied with paper drawings and 2D models. We’re finding that by compromising with paper based plans as well as 3D modelling – teams are starting to engage better with the process. Some of our best learnings as a business come from our highly capable and qualified individuals both on site and in the factory. 

There’s a wealth of knowledge and capability there that should not be ignored but instead behaviours and performance should be enhanced. This needs to be achieved by viewing digitisation and DfMA as valuable tools - rather then project constraints.

From my perspective, sitting amongst the panel, listening to the issues their own organisations face and taking the questions from the floor – it was interesting and in some respects, gratifying that we face many of the same issues at Prater.

Overall, I came away feeling it had been a very positive session. We have the tools to digitise the construction process, utilise DfMA and transform delivery of the built environment.

There are many of us striving to innovate, to implement these new methods and willing to collaborate and share knowledge; understanding that only then can our industry, and individual businesses prosper. And with so many like-minded individuals and organisations – surely that points us in the right direction?”