23.9.10

Rethinking IBS: Part 3

By Kamarul Anuar Mohamad Kamar

1. One major hurdle for pratitioners, policy makers and researchers in the area of construction industrialisation was to define the boundaries and establish clear basis of measurement what is IBS and what is not. Sometime IBS can not be distiguised from conventional practices.

2. The terms used in construction industrialisation are often ill defined, often interchangeably with other term and their precise definitions depend heavily on user’s experience and understanding, which vary from countries to countries.

3. The lack of uniform definition and uncertainty in context and boundary contributed to the prejudices and misunderstanding. Many industrialised construction technologies coexist with onsite work in hybrid construction and so demarcating what constitute offsite practice is problematic.

4. In Malaysian context, the term IBS is widely used by the government, practitioners and researchers to represent industrialisation in construction. The term is defined by Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) as construction technique in which components are manufactured in a controlled environment (on or off site), transported, positioned and assembled into a structure with minimal additional site works.

5. The term is however, is not focus and cover very wide scope of area which include the application of onsite systems and it is difficult distinguished it properly from conventional practice. IBS can include all systems from the ground to the sky. IBS can be new technologies or something that already been used in for a long time to subsititute conventional practices (which do not require governmnet incentives anymore). IBS also include technology which is labour intensive. This is not solve the main objective to embrace IBS; to reduce foriegn workers.

6. While other terms used to represent construction industrialisation are often relates to innovative solution, current definition by CIDB includes low-tech solutions and other of practices which already become common and not substituting conventional practices. This is understandble because when IBS is first promoted, the government would like to attract as many as possible contractor (particularly small players) to be involve in IBS. This is inline with the government agenda to create level playing field and total participation through open system

7. The terms and classifications provided by the CIDB were also misinterpreted as a system limited only for construction of buildings, while IBS can be interpreted as an approach or process used in making construction less labour-oriented and faster as well as fulfilling quality concern. The broader view of IBS is about the changing of conventional mindset, championing human capital development, developing better cooperation and trust, promoting transparency and integrity.

8. After so many years of promoting IBS, we should move forward, the fundamental is to make sure the difinition of IBS to be more focussed. IBS should be redefined. It need to include only a value creating system. One should also understand the level of industrialisation to redefine IBS. IBS Score is currently is the best way to measure 'IBSness' and level of adoption. But the changing the fundamental idea of IBS is still needed for the industry to have a clearer picture on IBS and in order to create value out of it. If we still rely on IBS Score, it will not changing people perception on IBS, not moving the industry to next level and not encouraging innovation such in robotic and automatition. People will not embracing IBS in a holistic way, but just substituting brick to precast system. While IBS is about 'industrialising' the whole processs. It need new pradigm and new way of doing things. The 'IBS is precast' metallity will probably drag us downward.

9. The move towards industrialisation of construction industry is also a global phenomenon and not merely a local or isolated initiative. The definition and classification need to be evolved and incorporate with global views and understanding. Therefore, the definition and classification of offsite, offsite construction, modern method of construction, offsite manufacturing, offsite production, pre-assembly and prefabrication, need to be examined. It gives a different perspective and enriches one understanding on IBS concept as whole.

10. IBS should be seen, promoted or at least defined as innovation in construction. According to the research, IBS is innovation indeed. Innovating conventional process is a huge task and requires change management and huge amount of investment. Nonetheless, industrialised construction is dipicted as innovation worlwide. It is imperative that IBS is seen as an evolution of construction using new and innovative techniques rather than a revolution. By understand this, the governmnet should know taht incentives and levy examption is still needed until the industry is matured. On the other hand, low-tech IBS which not creted any value should be delisted. Any incentive to this type of system will not help the nation to emrbrace construction modernisation.

11. The classification of IBS should be expanded to cater the scope of volumetric (modular) and hybrid construction. With this regrads, IBS is not to be seen as a threat to traditional methods. Both methods should be able to work in tandem and improve their processes collectively. The sharing of best practice between the two approaches is essential for the continued successful development of both construction sectors.

12. It is imperative that, IBS should move up the degree of industrialisation from prefabrication to reproduction through innovation. The mass-customisation concept which is vital to open building system agenda can only be achieved through the adoption of automation in the level of industrialisation. IBS in the future should be robotic and autimation and create value to clients.

13. The more advanced IBS is in the level of industrialisation, the more roles IBS has to be involved in project life cycle. The reproduction level of industrialisation will involve the whole project life cycle from planning to maintenance. IBS can be seen as a solution to the whole project life cycle if only, it can achieve reproduction level of industrialisation

14. This discussion on IBS definition should therefore engage positive debate into it and to obtain constructive reaction from practitioners and researchers. It is hoped that a clear definition and classification will enhance our understanding of IBS.

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