Modular construction, automotive industry,

How Majenta Solutions adopted motor industry practices to power Berkeley Modular’s offsite manufacturing business

The automotive industry, with its globally diffuse and complex supply chains and narrow operating margins, has learned the hard way to drive efficiencies into its manufacturing processes over the past two decades. Only through efficient supply chain management has the sector managed to drive productivity to levels that make it commercially durable.

While the construction industry in the UK has struggled to achieve double-digit productivity gains in the past 30 years, the automotive sector has transformed its fortunes by achieving a 208% growth in productivity in the 20 years since 1999.

So when Berkeley Modular looked to establish a new state-of-the-art production facility to manufacture volumetric modular housing elements, complete with electrics, plumbing, flooring and internal fittings, they turned their attentions to best practice that could be derived from the car industry in order to avoid the pitfalls of traditional construction practices and quickly establish a leadership position in offsite construction.

Supporting advanced manufacturing

Modular constructionIn order to design-in automotive learnings as an integral aspect of their new 150,000 sq ft manufacturing facility in Northfleet, Kent, Berkeley Modular turned to intelligent supply chain expert Majenta Solutions to ensure their crafted housing modules were as efficiently manufactured as a typical family car.

Advertisement

Majenta Solutions was established over two decades ago, initially to help global carmakers to integrate the growing number of designers responsible for engineering components for their assembly processes. With the experience of ensuring complex design and assembly processes are wholly integrated along a supply chain that may include thousands of individual tier companies, Majenta today supports advanced manufacturing industries not just in the automotive industry but also aerospace and many other forms of advanced manufacturing, including reshaping the approach of construction companies to adopt best practice from adjacent sectors.

The volumetric modular approach to designing and manufacturing that Berkeley Modular aimed to pursue was consistent with the automotive manufacturing principle of PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management. Encouraged by Majenta Solutions to adopt manufacturing as opposed to a construction mindset was crucial to the adoption of a PLM approach, which provides a company-wide view of the product lifecycle across all processes from engineering and supply chain to quality and manufacturing. PLM puts everyone associated with the process on the same page through the creation of a central source of intelligence, or truth.

Majenta director, James Smith, who leads the company’s construction division, said: “Berkeley Modular were an ideal client for Majenta as they were visionary in their attitude and willing to listen to the best practice approach we have built from years of experience in the automotive and aerospace industries.

“This requires a shift in thinking from an ‘on-site construction’ mindset to a ‘manufacturing’ mindset. And Berkeley Modular were willing to embrace that disruptive and groundbreaking approach to move into the modular market.”

Lifecycle management solution

The PLM approach that Majenta prescribed for Berkeley Modular promised that better products would be created faster and that the management of the entire lifecycle of the resulting product is written into the solution. This approach was intended to answer many of the systemic issues identified in on-site construction, where adaption and retrospective solutions cause builds to be plagued by delays and cost-overruns.

Moreover, Berkeley Modular wanted to be at the forefront of enhancing the ownership experience through a lifecycle management solution that not only digitally documents all original building specifications but also provides a paper trail of changes, updates and alterations to the house over its lifetime, and not just the initial build phase, in order to comply with the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations & Fire Safety.

The underlying principle of ‘build by module’ is closely aligned to the automotive process. Each module of a house or flat demands its own library of standardised component parts and the modules must conform to an overall design schema in order that the modules are compatible.

Considered in this way, a car gearbox is no different to a bathroom module. It was Majenta’s task to design the data infrastructure that would guide the process of design, manufacture and life cycling of the building modules, no easy task considering that an initial audit revealed that a module alone contained 125m data points on average and a single high-rise residential development might contain 2,500m data points.

A data lake

The solution Majenta developed with Berkeley Modular has at its heart a central data lake, which acts as a single source of truth for the entire design, manufacturing and maintenance lifecycle.

The design phase connects user requirement specifications for a building module to a rules-based configurator that draws on dimensional and product data to ensure the design process removes all validation errors that normally only materialise downstream in traditional on-site construction, thereby ensuring the modular construction approach is error-free from the get-go.

The data streams that supply the lake, or central source of truth, in the manufacturing phase generate a full Bill of Materials (BOM) and Bill of Process (BOP) from the 3D module model. The BOM tells suppliers what parts are needed to complete each module and the BOP defines the manufacturing process required to deliver the module.

These, in turn, feed Berkeley Modular’s supplier integration tool, CoBuilder, thereby ensuring the single source of truth principle is first validated and then extended to the supplier network. Rules are the backbone of the data architecture, not just validating initial designs but also generating governing processes such as design change management and ensuring those that need to see this data are alerted.

The BOM and BOP schedules in turn provide the core data to power a manufacturing execution system. Berkeley opted to automate their production and Majenta’s APIs allow the relevant elements of the data lake, such as the CAD/CAM data, to drive the robotic manufacturing processes. Automation in turn has allowed the Northfleet facility to operate on an agile and scalable basis.

By connecting architectural and engineering design right the way through to the ongoing building lifecycle maintenance that can be ‘passported’ through to the homeowner, Majenta worked with Berkeley Modular to close the loop and overcome another disconnect at the point of sale that is common in the sector.

Graham Cleland, managing director of Berkeley Modular, said: “We engaged with a number of potential providers but selected Majenta because of their track record in the automotive industry and a profound understanding of the journey that we would need to go on to create our digitisation strategy for high volume, high quality production.

“The experience of working in automotive was invaluable because of the journey that the key players in this sector have been through in the last two decades or so and the insight this has provided Majenta to define what constitutes best-in-class.”

 

 

 

James Smith

Director

Majenta Solutions

+44 (0) 2476 308 500

www.majentasolutions.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here