MEP en­gi­neers are catch­ing up to the use of pre­fab­ri­ca­tion in the re­gion, says Re­jil Ku­mar, gen­eral man­ager, Weather­maker Lim­ited

MEP Middle East - - INSIGHT -

While project in­ef­fi­cien­cies and im­proved technology adap­ta­tion is driv­ing pre­fab­ri­ca­tion, MEP en­gi­neers are slowly catch­ing up to the new ways of work­ing, which re­quires a bit of adap­ta­tion and change in ap­proach to build­ing projects, says Re­jil Ku­mar, gen­eral man­ager, Weather­maker Lim­ited.

Train­ing and ori­en­ta­tion of MEP en­gi­neers to­wards the cul­ture of off­site build­ing re­quires an un­der­stand­ing of new pos­si­bil­i­ties. Ku­mar says that an in­te­gra­tion of a pre­fab­ri­cated MEP strat­egy at ten­der stages al­ters the ap­proach of MEP con­trac­tors to de­liver projects. One should take ad­van­tage of the im­proved use of 3D de­sign, al­low­ing suf­fi­cient time for fab­ri­ca­tion de­sign, and en­sure smoother work­flows and re­duced re­work. Ku­mar says that a good co­or­di­na­tion strat­egy be­tween the on­site and pre­fab fac­tory at all stages in an in­te­grated man­ner will help en­sure that ev­ery­one works in tan­dem and mo­d­ules are fab­ri­cated in time for in­stal­la­tion at site. He says: “Un­like tra­di­tional sites where there is a se­quence of ma­te­rial ar­riv­ing at the site, up­front ma­te­rial plan­ning is su­per crit­i­cal for pre­fab man­u­fac­tur­ers, as all the ma­te­ri­als are re­quired at a time to­gether.”

How­ever, like most dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies, off­site MEP has been fac­ing a few chal­lenges mostly orig­i­nat­ing from get­ting the project stake­hold­ers to em­brace and adapt to new ways of work­ing. Ku­mar lists some key chal­lenges suc­cess­ful MEP con­trac­tors have ad­dressed such as abil­ity to in­te­grate the pre­fab strat­egy into the over­all project de­liv­ery strat­egy. Early man­date by client and con­sul­tant helps al­ter the project en­vi­ron­ment to suit­ably plan, adopt, se­quence and col­lab­o­rate be­tween mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers; in a work en­vi­ron­ment where time­lines are

short, stake­hold­ers are blinded by the sin­gle ob­jec­tive of de­liv­er­ing the project, that is, the abil­ity to think out of the box is scarce. Pre­fab mod­ule man­u­fac­tur­ers play a key role in ed­u­cat­ing the in­dus­try and shar­ing the suc­cess sto­ries of of fsite MEP to drive this change; re-ori­ent­ing of con­sult­ing en­gi­neers to mod­u­lar con­struc­tion since it de­parts from their stan­dard (usual) ap­proach to su­per­vis­ing MEP works. Their ap­proach and at­ti­tude can be a road-block or path to the suc­cess of projects, de­pend­ing on their un­der­stand­ing and ori­en­ta­tion to­wards pre­fab­ri­ca­tion; there should be suc­cess­ful adap­ta­tion of pre­fab MEP re­quires im­proved and early and multi stake­holder buy-in, as it im­pacts the col­lab­o­ra­tion, project se­quenc­ing, project con­trol and mea­sure­ment, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of work com­ple­tion, in a way which is much dif­fer­ent to the tra­di­tional MEP con­struc­tion; and a mono dis­ci­pline ap­proach to en­gi­neer­ing of MEP projects runs con­trary to in­te­grated work flow cul­ture of pre­fab­ri­cated mul­ti­ser­vice MEP racks. How­ever, this is be­ing changed by the use of 3D de­sign and em­pha­sis on im­proved co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines.

On how off-site con­struc­tion re­duces cost and en­sure high qual­ity, Ku­mar says: “Re­duced learn­ing curve for trades­men in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment along with lesser dis­trac­tions (no scaf­fold­ing, de­pen­dency on other trades, avail­abil­ity of ma­te­rial etc.) helps im­prove the qual­ity of the work. Fur­ther­more, since the ac­cess to the work front in a fac­tory is at a com­fort­able work­ing level com­pared to project sites, the work en­vi­ron­ment is con­sid­er­ably bet­ter lead­ing to im­proved qual­ity.

“While most MEP projects have ag­gres­sive tar­gets on labour man­age­ment, labour over runs are a com­mon oc­cur­rence in the in­dus­try due to sev­eral fac­tors such as labour dis­ci­pline, site lo­gis­tics, safety, re­quire­ment of scaf­fold­ing, etc. How­ever, th­ese fac­tors ei­ther are man­aged with ease in a fac­tory en­vi­ron­ment lead­ing to cer­tainty of labour costs for a MEP sub­con­trac­tor.”

Ku­mar says that MEP pre­fab­ri­ca­tion helps to ad­dress mul­ti­ple woes faced by the in­dus­try. How­ever, the big­gest ad­van­tages most of the cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ence is re­duced project time­lines, and re­work at im­proved pre­dictabil­ity, which is of­ten faced at con­struc­tion sites.

He says: “In an in­dus­try be­sieged by labour pro­duc­tiv­ity and project de­lays, the ac­cep­tance and wide spread use pre­fab­ri­cated MEP as a lever to man­age projects, has been catch­ing up slowly but steadily. Al­though the ad­van­tages of off­site con­struc­tion are ev­i­dent, we have wit­nessed MEP con­trac­tors on both ends of the spec­trum – the ones that are yet to ac­cept and the ones who are work with off­site con­struc­tion cen­tral to the de­liv­ery strat­egy.

“Some of the re­cent re­quire­ments of strin­gent project time­lines, have ne­ces­si­tated use of pre­fab al­though not en­vis­aged dur­ing the con­cep­tion of th­ese projects. This has been ably as­sisted by the suc­cess of a few early adopters’ who have suc­cess­fully de­ployed pre­fab MEP strat­egy.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ku­mar, cur­rently, mod­u­lar­i­sa­tion cov­ers about 30% to 35% of the scope of MEP work sites in projects with typ­i­cal re­peat­able de­signs. Ku­mar lists down some con­clud­ing fac­tors that can en­cour­age spe­cial­ist sub­con­trac­tors to pro­vide mod­u­lar MEP sys­tems:

Driv­ers of im­proved adop­tion rate in­clude client and con­sul­tant driven man­date for pre­fab cou­pled with com­mit­ted lead­er­ship and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with MEP con­tract­ing firms; in­creased use of vir­tual de­sign, im­proved fab­ri­ca­tion in­tent in de­sign soft­ware across the con­struc­tion ecosys­tem en­cour­ag­ing fab­ri­ca­tion in­tent and off­site fab­ri­ca­tion; project time­line pres­sures and avail­abil­ity of qual­ity sub-con­trac­tors; lo­gis­ti­cal com­pli­ca­tions in some project sites, also ne­ces­si­tate the use of pre­fab­ri­cated MEP racks, to re­duce the num­ber of trips un­der­taken to th­ese sites; and lim­i­ta­tions of re­mote project lo­ca­tions, sum­mer work times in the re­gion are some of other fac­tors driv­ing con­trac­tors to con­sider pre­fab­ri­cated MEP com­po­nents.

In an in­dus­try be­sieged by labour pro­duc­tiv­ity and project de­lays, the ac­cep­tance and wide spread use pre­fab­ri­cated MEP as a lever to man­age projects, has been catch­ing up slowly but steadily.″

Re­jil Ku­mar.

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