The Majenta team is delighted to share our experience of working on one of the UK’s leading construction initiatives with Berkeley Modular Limited (BML). On completion of a successful tender process, Majenta worked with BML to help turn their vision of an off-site manufacturing facility, capable of turning raw materials into crafted housing modules, into a reality. Majenta’s project role focused on delivering the golden thread of information and controlling the specification and exchange of data throughout the design and manufacture process. We believe the technology and approach to modern construction demonstrated on this project is both disruptive and ground-breaking for the construction industry. We are proud to have been given the opportunity to support such a visionary customer.
In response to a national housebuilding crisis and the need to improve efficiency and quality throughout the design, build and operation of new homes, the national homebuilder Berkeley Group set up Berkeley Modular Limited (BML). BML was established as a separate company within the Berkeley Group portfolio to help address and alleviate these critical industry challenges. The investment in BML, and a bespoke modular facility, demonstrates Berkeley Group’s commitment to modern methods of construction and to leading the market in adoption of lean and scalable production technologies for off-site modular building.
In contrast to traditional ‘build on-site’ construction, a modular approach allows BML to improve consistency across all aspects of home building by following a rigid manufacturing process more familiar to sectors such as automotive or advanced manufacturing. In these industries this approach is known as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), a mindset adopted by BML. By establishing a library of approved standard component parts, BML is able to assemble entire sections (modules) of a home in a controlled environment before these modules are brought together on-site as part of a coordinated build process. This may be a number of modules joining together to form a single dwelling or many modules combining to create a high-rise residential development.
Traditional home building and construction often encounter issues of poorly specified manufacturer supplied products, build problems occurring on-site at additional and unplanned cost, limited availability of skilled labour, and a lack of traceability regarding all project-related information and decision making. Moreover, project construction can often start before the technical design is finalised leading to significant rework at additional cost. With increased high-rise residential developments taking place predominantly within cities adding a premium cost to any construction project, there is also a higher risk of exorbitant costs being passed to the developer when unforeseen issues occur whilst on-site.
In establishing BML’s modular facility, BML is able to scrutinise and control each stage of a project from design and product specification through to performance monitoring post-build. Modular allows BML to create a single source of truth concerning all construction-related information and to control how data is passed and used through the business. In doing so, BML has established a genuine golden thread of information, a concept that many in the industry are struggling to implement as was made clear in Dame Judith Hackitt’s influential report Building a Safer Future following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Therefore, BML’s lean offsite manufacturing approach provides customer satisfaction, product surety and safety through the certainty and quality embedded into the build process. Through the use of advanced automation and robotics BML can also respond quickly to market conditions and leverage a factory-based approach to retain quality when scaling up production.
BML realised the importance of engaging external expertise to support the realisation of their offsite manufacturing vision. The goal was to empower project teams to design new buildings within predefined parameters which still provide design flexibility but guarantee quality and efficiency of new modular built homes. BML’s focus was to create a genuine manufacturing process using advanced machining for roll forming sheet metal for instance and gaining a competitive advantage by bringing the whole construction process in-house. In so doing, BML had wider aspirations to better manage their entire supply chain, decrease carbon use, and provide a sustainable and scalable business strategy for the future.
At the heart of any successful manufacturing operation is the controlled use of data, and Majenta’s role at BML was focused on providing the expertise necessary to make sure the right piece of information gets delivered to the right system at the right time. BML needed a partner with experience of connecting disparate and siloed systems into a harmonious data ecosystem with data connectivity at its core. Working towards this objective, Majenta’s approach was to conduct a thorough due diligence review of the existing data architecture to benchmark where data breakdown and a lack of interoperability was occurring and where the golden thread principle was not evidenced.
In order to facilitate a single flow of information from design source through to its downstream use in feeding and instructing factory machinery, combining and controlling the geometry data and associated manufacturer product metadata was key. The challenge for setting up BML’s data delivery infrastructure, however, was to guarantee that BML only request, validate, and store data that is of proven value to the business. By a simple calculation of how many components make up one full module and how many individual pieces of product information need to be held against each component, it was apparent that each fully constructed module would hold over 125 million pieces of information. The information for a single high-rise residential development then increases exponentially to around 2,500 million.
Therefore, it was imperative for Majenta to not only develop new processes for managing and integrating design and product data but to rationalise what precise information is required from BML’s supply chain. Data always comes at a cost and BML needed to ensure that all data to be collated and managed must have a proven downstream benefit.
To create BML’s golden thread of information, Majenta developed ‘digital streams’ of information which feed a central ‘data lake’. This provides a single source of truth for all BML’s build data. As shown in the diagram below, the data lake concept is central to how BML combine different streams of data, such as geometry and product information, and how data streams provide important information to core BML business functions such as Manufacturing, Purchasing and the on-site construction team.
Majenta went to the source of how the manufacturer’s data was being collected and mapped the whole journey of how information needs to be used downstream. This enabled our project team to construct new data workflows and data collection protocols to ensure that BML only specify and request data that is of practical value. Hosting this structured product information in known and accessible locations enabled a rules-based configurator capability to be introduced to the process.
At the outset of a new project, BML’s design team can now input dimensional information and design intent for a new development space e.g. a bathroom or kitchen, and the configuration engine will access the central repository of combined geometry and product data to create a completed digital model which is then made available within the central data lake for downstream use. A full Bill of Materials (BOM) and Bill of Process (BOP) is created for automated communication with BML’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which means that from the point of the design team inputting their top level construction requirements to the point of assembly-line production the end to end process is fully automated.
Without this robust automation capability, the overheads of manual intervention and the vast additional data burden this would place on BML, would undermine the profitability and feasibility of the project. Therefore, in scrutinising the data inputs and joining the dots from the end goal to the start of the process, Majenta was able to establish a fully scalable and lean manufacturing process for BML. Furthermore, all information regarding the property of materials used on specific projects are captured at the time of creation, providing a full audit trail and traceability. This also provides the knowledge required to validate the manufacturer’s product performance during a building’s operation.
As demonstrated in the diagram below, Majenta was able to adhere to the principle of the golden thread of information. The data lake not only integrated with BML’s MES and ERP system but also with the construction team’s Common Data Environment (CDE) and the building owners CAFM (computer aided facilities management) software platform for continued building lifecycle management. This is achieved through the automated generation of design data and project documentation and delivery of industry-standard COBie data.
Following Majenta’s engagement with BML’s project team, we are pleased to summarise the project outputs as follows:
Offsite manufacturing, or modular construction, are not new industry concepts but the decision to learn from advanced manufacturing best practice in other sectors represents a genuine opportunity to disrupt an often disjointed industry which suffers from a lack of data traceability and accountability.
For Majenta, we are dedicated to supporting our customers, such as BML, to realise the benefits that modern digital construction can provide across the whole construction landscape and we are passionate about turning the theory of best industry practice into reality.
If you are interested in speaking with Majenta about your own challenges regarding modular or digital construction, please contact our team.