Ger­man ma­chine tech­nol­ogy the key to suc­cess Blue­print Ro­bot­ics (USA) Sys­tem built so­lu­tions

Australasian Timber - - IN PROFILE - By Eva-Maria Pul­ver­müller

WHEN BLUE­PRINT Ro­bot­ics co-founder and Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Karim Sahy­oun vis­ited a close friend in Mu­nich, he was im­pressed of the ex­cel­lent qual­ity and pre­ci­sion of his host’s res­i­den­tial house. The 450m² build­ing was pro­duced by a Weinmann cus­tomer, the renowned Ger­man pre­fab house man­u­fac­turer We­berHaus. Af­ter the ar­chi­tec­tural plans and pic­tures of the house be­ing in­stalled were shown to Karim, the en­tre­pre­neur’s in­ter­est in this con­struc­tion method was aroused even more. Karim de­scribes this ini­tial ex­pe­ri­ence as if it oc­curred yes­ter­day, “Given how dif­fer­ent con­struc­tion can some­times be in the

US, I was ab­so­lutely blown away. The house felt so sturdy, com­pared to our homes in the US that it was dif­fi­cult for me to be­lieve it was built out of wood. I im­me­di­ately sensed a real op­por­tu­nity. I just knew this tech­nol­ogy could rev­o­lu­tion­ize the home build­ing in­dus­try in Amer­ica. There started a two-year due dili­gence and busi­ness plan­ning process that in­cluded try­ing to in­ter­est highly re­spected Ger­man pre­fab com­pa­nies in be­com­ing joint ven­ture part­ners. I was sur­prised that not one was will­ing to make even a mi­nor­ity in­vest­ment.”

We­berHaus rec­om­mends Weinmann

Ini­tially, Karim Sahy­oun asked his Mu­nich friend to in­tro­duce him to We­berHaus in or­der to in­quire about their equip­ment. That re­quest led to Weinmann, the spe­cial­ist for the de­sign and de­liv­ery of pro­duc­tion lines for tim­ber con­struc­tion. Be­sides, dur­ing the fol­low­ing 12 months, Weinmann was ul­ti­mately rec­om­mended by vir­tu­ally ev­ery pre­fab house com­pany Karim ap­proached in the course of his com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket study. In con­trast to the com­peti­tors in the in­dus­try, Weinmann un­der­stood the po­ten­tial pre­sented by the US.

Con­cepts were worked out and dis­cussed in­tensely with the Amer­i­can prospec­tive buy­ers.

This led to Blue­print Ro­bot­ics man­age­ment form­ing a strong re­la­tion­ship with this Ger­man Ho­mag sub­sidiary. Nu­mer­ous vis­its of the Blue­print Ro­bot­ics founders Jerry Smal­ley, Sascha Bopp and Karim Sahy­oun took place at the Weinmann head­quar­ters in St. Jo­hann in the course of the plan­ning and pro­ject­ing phase. A de­ci­sive fac­tor for the de­ci­sion in fa­vor of Weinmann, Karim Sahy­oun reports ret­ro­spec­tively, was Hans­bert

Ott, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and head of sales & ser­vice for al­most 25 years. Karim Sahy­oun is quick to say: “Hans­bert’s gen­uine en­thu­si­asm as well as his ge­nius was ev­i­dent im­me­di­ately, and in gen­eral, it had be­come clear to us that no com­pany in the world came even close to match­ing Weinmann’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­ge­nu­ity.

Blue­print Ro­bot­ics com­pany con­cept

What had been an idea and a plan be­came real in March 2015 when fund­ing was pro­vided by a ma­jor in­vestor, In­vus Group. And what be­gan as a three­man com­pany, to­day is a fast-grow­ing en­ter­prise em­ploy­ing more than 80 peo­ple in a brand-new 20,000m² fa­cil­ity in the city of Bal­ti­more. This lo­ca­tion has been care­fully cho­sen, be­cause the port of Bal­ti­more is only 2 km from the com­pany head­quar­ters, and the city has an ex­cel­lent road and rail net­work. Blue­print Ro­bot­ics pro­duces both sin­gle­fam­ily homes and mul­ti­fam­ily apart­ment build­ings. Un­like the ma­jor­ity of Ger­man pre­fab com­pa­nies, Blue­print Ro­bot­ics of­fers no home de­signs of its own, re­ly­ing in­stead on their cus­tomers’ unique ar­chi­tec­tural plans. And the com­pany never sells di­rectly to home­own­ers, fo­cus­ing its sell­ing ef­forts on builders ex­clu­sively. In ad­di­tion, Blue­print Ro­bot­ics doesn’t con­struct the en­tire house. Karim ex­plains the com­pany’s mis­sion as fol­lows, “We man­u­fac­ture and in­stall what I would de­scribe as a three-di­men­sional can­vas on which the builder can put his fin­ish­ing touches. What we de­liver is a struc­ture that, on the out­side, is com­pletely pro­tected from the ele­ments, on which the builder can put the type of roof­ing ma­te­rial and ex­ter­nal cladding that he de­sires. On the in­side, all the win­dows and doors are in­stalled in the fac­tory, as is all the plumb­ing, electrics, HVAC rough-in, al­low­ing each panel to leave the fac­tory closed. The last step of our in­stal­la­tion process in­volves fin­ish­ing the dry­wall, leav­ing it ready for the builder to paint or wall pa­per. The builder un­der­takes the fin­ish­ing work, in­clud­ing tiling of bath­rooms, in­stal­la­tion of kitchen cab­i­nets, and any or­na­men­tal work. We avoid do­ing any work in which we can­not lever­age Weinmann equip­ment to de­liver su­pe­rior prod­ucts at mar­ket com­pet­i­tive pric­ing. What we of­fer our cus­tomers is cer­tainty - qual­ity cer­tainty, cost cer­tainty, de­liv­ery cer­tainty.”

Pro­duc­tion lines with in­no­va­tive high­lights

The Weinmann wall pro­duc­tion line starts with a WBZ 160 car­pen­try ma­chine where the beams and studs re­quired for the tim­ber frame work are cut. The sec­ond ma­chine in the pro­cess­ing chain is a WEM frame work sta­tion equipped with an au­to­mated stud feed­ing por­tal. Then there are three

as­sem­bly and trans­port ta­bles over which a mul­ti­func­tion bridge moves to carry out dif­fer­ent pro­cess­ing steps such as nail­ing the sheath­ing on the frame work by means of a pow­er­ful nail­ing unit. As soon as the first panel side is fin­ished, the el­e­ment is turned us­ing a so-called but­ter­fly turn­ing table. An as­sem­bly table then trans­fers the el­e­ment to a line where any elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing work is in­stalled. A fur­ther trans­port table places the el­e­ment un­der the mul­ti­func­tion bridge. There, loose cel­lu­lose is blown into the frame­work com­part­ments. This is not only a most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, waste-free process, but also a real in­no­va­tion in this in­dus­try. For the Blue­print Ro­bot­ics project, the Austrian in­su­la­tion spe­cial­ist Ico­cell and Weinmann have com­bined their tech­nolo­gies. Via a spe­cially de­vel­oped in­ter­face, the so-called blow-in plate, in­stalled at the mul­ti­func­tion bridge, is po­si­tioned fully-au­to­mat­i­cally over the re­spec­tive frame work com­part­ments, so the in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial can be blown-in. The use of loose cel­lu­lose as an in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial of­fers Blue­print Ro­bot­ics nu­mer­ous ad­van­tages: The fill­ing of the com­part­ments hap­pens smoothly and is done very quickly. Fur­ther­more, the fill-in vol­ume is mon­i­tored and doc­u­mented which again rep­re­sents a great ad­van­tage with re­gard to qual­ity con­trol.

Over­all, Blue­print Ro­bot­ics makes an in­dus­try-lead­ing com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity by re­duc­ing ma­te­rial waste in ex­cess of 70% dur­ing its en­tire con­struc­tion process. The com­pany em­ploys a “Zero to Land­fill” ap­proach that en­sures all re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als are re­cy­cled. The new state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity is truly im­pres­sive and op­ti­mizes work­place safety.

But let’s go back to the work­flow: Fi­nally, the fin­ished panel is moved to a fur­ther work­ing table where the sec­ond side is for­mat­ted and sheathed. From there, by means of a tilt­ing table, the prod­uct is trans­ferred to a huge wall mag­a­zine where the edges of the plas­ter­boards are sealed and the win­dows, slid­ing doors and the like are in­stalled. With cus­tom-made trans­port trol­leys, the com­pleted wall ele­ments are moved to the huge wall mag­a­zine which is also a cus­tom­ized Weinmann de­vice. Four to five ele­ments at a time are pushed onto a load­ing trol­ley, pack­aged and wrapped with foil for trans­port. By means of a wall re­moval track, the pack­ages are trans­ported to the re­spec­tive trans­port means where they are loaded with fork­lift trucks. The roof-/floor pro­duc­tion line is al­most iden­ti­cal to the wall line. It also starts with a car­pen­try ma­chine. Here, too, re­moval tracks en­able the in­stal­la­tion of elec­tri­cal and san­i­tary in­stal­la­tions dur­ing the pro­duc­tion process. A Weinmann car­pen­try table WTZ serves as a fram­ing table, and at the same time it is used as a turn­ing table for a fur­ther but­ter­fly turn­ing so­lu­tion. An­other NC­con­trolled clamp­ing table com­pletes the so­lu­tion.

As with the wall sys­tem, a mul­ti­func­tion bridge equipped with screw­ing units moves over the as­sem­bly ta­bles. A trans­port table forms the end of the plant.

The huge ad­van­tage of these au­to­mated pro­duc­tion lines – apart from their pro­cess­ing speed and un­be­liev­able ac­cu­racy – off­sets the in­creas­ing short­age of skilled crafts­man in the US since mil­lions of con­struc­tion work­ers left the in­dus­try (or re­tired) af­ter the eco­nomic down­turn in 2008. In De­cem­ber 2016, af­ter Weinmann had com­pleted the equip­ment in­stal­la­tion, test­ing and cal­i­bra­tion, Blue­print Ro­bot­ics started pro­duc­ing for cus­tomers.

A busi­ness vacuum wait­ing to be filled

All the ex­pe­ri­ence gained dur­ing the op­er­a­tion of this fa­cil­ity will soon be in­cor­po­rated into a sec­ond fa­cil­ity on which Blue­print Ro­bot­ics has al­ready placed a de­posit. By the third plant, Karim ex­pects to have a sys­tem in place that will al­low them to open plants at an ever in­creas­ing rate. “We are ad­dress­ing a $460 bil­lion in­dus­try so we have a lot of op­por­tu­nity and a lot of work ahead of us. Con­sid­er­ing that in a ‘nor­mal year’, roughly 1.4 mil­lion new hous­ing units are built in the U.S. and of these, 1-1.1 mil­lion units are sin­gle fam­ily homes, there is an enor­mous busi­ness po­ten­tial. As the pre-fab mar­ket in the U.S. is com­prised al­most en­tirely of com­pa­nies that use a mod­u­lar con­struc­tion ap­proach, and these com­pa­nies are al­most all lo­cated in re­mote ar­eas where la­bor is very cheap, they build prac­ti­cally ev­ery­thing by hand as they would on the home site. They just do it in some cov­ered en­clo­sure. As a re­sult, the qual­ity of their prod­ucts is in­con­sis­tent. In ad­di­tion, the ge­om­e­try of the mod­u­lar method im­poses sig­nif­i­cant de­sign lim­i­ta­tions. That’s why the word ‘pre-fab’ has a rather bad con­no­ta­tion in the US. In the con­sumer’s mind, pre-fab seems to be equiv­a­lent to poor qual­ity and bad de­sign.” In or­der not to fall into this cat­e­gory, Blue­print des­ig­nates its of­fer­ing as ‘sys­tem built so­lu­tions’. Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of ev­ery client con­tract, the com­pany se­cures a state ap­proved set of draw­ings that are pro­fes­sion­ally stamped for the builder to use in ap­pli­ca­tion for lo­cal build­ing per­mits. In a mat­ter of days, the com­pany’s ro­bot­ics sys­tem con­structs each el­e­ment of the project in the pan­el­ized form. Sub­se­quently de­liv­ered and as­sem­bled on a builder’s foun­da­tion by the ex­pertly trained Blue­print

Ro­bot­ics work­force, each struc­ture will be up and weather tight within 3-4 days. Karim Sahy­oun: “It is there­fore not an over­state­ment for me to say that Blue­print Ro­bot­ics and Weinmann are in the process of rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the way Amer­i­cans build.”

■ Sign­ing of the con­tract at Weinmann.9 (l-r) Charles Martin, Hans­bert Ott, Jerome D. Smal­ley, Jochen Wind­hösel, Robert Slater.

■ All roof and floor ele­ments are pro­duced with a sep­a­rate pro­duc­tion line.

Fully au­to­mated blow­ing-in of the in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial with the mul­ti­func­tion bridge WMS 150 blowTEC.

The wall mag­a­zine ma­nip­u­lates up to five ele­ments at the same time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.