3.9.12

Offsite mechanization in construction - industrialization

Offsite mechanisation (industrialisation) can be defined as the production of prefabrication and industrialised components and the use of Industrialised Building System (IBS) technologies. Although the large numbers of component is prefabrication, the construction is still forever site-intensive handicraft. As a result, the degree of industrialisation should be an indicator to measure the level of industrialisation adoption in construction. The categorisation also represents the maturity of industrialisation adoption. Five degrees of industrialisation can be identified, mainly by extrapolating from what is going on in other industries such as manufacturing and automotive. The degree of industrialisation discussed in Richard’s research is shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1: Degree of industrialisation 
There are five degrees of industrialisation which are: prefabrication, mechanisation, automation, robotic and reproduction. These are described as follows:
  1. Prefabrication is a manufacturing process that generally takes place at a specialised facility, in which various materials are joined to form a component part of the final installation
  2. Mechanisation comes in whenever machinery is employed to ease the workload of the labourer.
  3. Automation is a situation when the tooling (machine) completely takes over the tasks performed by the labourer.
  4. Robotics comprises the ability of the same tooling which has the multi-axis flexibility to perform diversified tasks by itself. This allows the mass-customisation concept.
  5. Reproduction implies that the research and development of innovative processes are truly capable of simplifying the production process.
According to Richard, the first four degrees are still more under the influence of the traditional methods of building. Prefabrication aims rather at the location of the production where the next three degrees (mechanisation, automation and robotics) aim at substituting labour with machineries. Reproduction, on the other hand, is a concept borrowed from the printing industry and it is an innovation capable of simplifying the multiplier of complex goods and delivering affordable, quality building to the vast majority of people.  
Figure 2 shows the value creation of industrialised construction versus the type of systems used, as well as the level of standardisation. IBS can create the most value when the product undergoes individuality, integration and less standardisation in the form of modular construction and integrated elements. Increasing the individuality, content and spatiality of modules results in a reduction of the series sizes, while, on the other hand, increasing content and spatiality adds more monetary value due to rationalisation effects in the factory. Therefore, the value creation of industrialisation can only be established using robotised and automated manufacturing process which is different from current conventional practices.  

Figure2: Industrialisation value creation
Level of Offsite mechanisation
Description
Prefabrication
·         Prefabrication is a manufacturing process that generally takes place at a specialized facility (factory)
·         Small scale production
·         Use large number of semi-skilled labour along production line
·         Small number of machines and equipment
·         Non-complex machines and equipment
Mechanisation
·         Large scale production
·         Extensive usage of mechanical and electrical equipment and machineries in aiding prefabrication activities
·         Use of complex machines and equipment
·         Machines substantially reduce the need of manpower as compared to prefabrication
·         Machine is still controlled by labour
Automation
·         Automation is defined as a self-regulating process performed by using programmable machines to carry out series of tasks.
·         Automation is also a situation when the tooling (machine) completely takes over the tasks performed by the laborer.
Robotics
·         Ability of the same tooling which has the multi-axis flexibility (robot arm) to perform diversified tasks by itself
·         Consist of using high technology machine with total control of machines using artificial intelligent capability
Reproduction
·         Innovative processes are truly capable of simplifying the production process or complex goods by introducing a different technology

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