Saturday, December 25, 2010

Leading by example- Ark Hotel Construction shows How Prefabrication can Change the Face of Construction Industry

This video titled "Ark Hotel Construction time lapse building 15 storeys in 2 days" surfaced only last month on the internet and it was seen more than 3.8 million times on Youtube alone.

And there is a reason for that. It took just six days to build the Ark Hotel in Changsha, China. According to the video, no stationary cranes were used in construction and there wasn't single injury among the site's workers.

The 15-story sustainable hotel already had its foundation but using pre-fabricated columns and modules as well as modern construction techniques, construction workers took just 46 hours to finish the main structural components and another 90 hours to finish the building enclosure.

Construction Details:

Level 9 Earthquake Resistance: diagonal bracing structure, light weight, steel construction, passed level 9 earthquake resistance testing

6x Less Material: even though the construction materials are much lighter(250kg/m2) than the traditional materials(over 1500kg/m2), the floors and walls are solid with surefootedness, airtight and sound-proofing

5x Energy Efficient: 150mm thermal insulation for walls and roofs, triple glazed plastic windows, external solar shading, heat insulation, fresh air heat recovery, LED lighting, yearly HAVC A/C energy consumption equivalent to 7 liters oil.

20x Purification: after 3 levels of purification, the purification efficiency for fresh air reaches 95%-99.9%; air exchanged 1-2.5 times per hour, and indoor air is 20x cleaner than out door air

1% Construction Waste: all components are factory made, construction waste, mainly package materials, result from on site set-up only and amount to 1% of the total weight of the building


If we believe the sources on the internet, this hotel construction caused only 1% material waste as compared to the building industry average of 10% for in-place steel and concrete construction. Clearly, this well planned, coordinated and executed project sets a perfect example for lean construction community and for the construction industry as a whole to understand the value of eliminating waste from the projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Visit to Toyota Texas Plant in San Antonio Texas and Lessons Learned for Construction

On November 19th, 2010, I got a chance to visit Toyota Texas Plant. It was truly a great experience. One because it was a Truck Manufacturing Plant and second because I got to see Toyota Production System (TPS) in action. Toyota is where the concept of 'lean' was first born in 1930's. This visit was very significant for me as I was reading about lean in manufacturing throughout my masters at Texas A&M and this was a time to see how things actually get done at Toyota plants.

We were very well received by the plant management at the Visitors' Center and taken to the assembly lines later after a short presentation on Toyota Texas and TPS. This plant started manufacturing trucks (thats what Texans like the most) called "Tundra" and "Tacoma" in year 2006. Both trucks are manufactured on the same assembly line with the help of automatic changing dies (that typically take 5 min on avg) and about 400 robots. The plant works in 2 shifts and produce around 860 vehicles every day.

I got to see the Toyota truck production first hand and as I mentioned earlier it was amazing. The tour guide was a very kind lady who knew the in and out of the plant and showed us around with every possible detail she could in 45 min duration. However, I couldn't stop my mind by comparing lean in manufacturing and lean in construction throughout those 45 minutes.

One very interesting thought revolving in my mind was "how much revenue Toyota is making every day by selling the trucks manufactured on this plant?" After a few searches on Google, I was able to find out that Tundra costs around $24,000 and Tacoma around $20,000. The simple math tells us that on an average Toyota Texas plant is producing trucks worth $19,000,000 every day (assuming equal number of both models). In contrast a $19,000,000 construction project may take anywhere between 1 to 2 years. Obviously, it could be argued that the upfront plant construction costs, technologies used and number of people working in the Toyota plant are way more than what is done on a construction site. However, we can learn a lot from manufacturing, the difference is too big to compare and the concept of reducing the time and cost with improved quality can be taken to a whole new level once this difference is apparent to everybody on the construction team.

In my opinion every team member from a construction project should visit a manufacturing plant once with an aim in mind to learn from the means and methods used there. It may not be possible for everybody to visit the Toyota Plant but a good manufacturing plant itself will be a great source of learning and motivation.