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PCE Ltd – The Phenomenon of HybriDfMA

The construction and engineering industry are always looking for ways to improve on processes, equipment, material, time, the list can go on. Using the term coined by Matthew Syed – ‘Black Box Thinking’ – epitomises how and what the construction industry are constantly trying to achieve. Black Box Thinking looks openly at failures and putting processes in place to learn from them. However, it doesn’t stop there, the next stage is looking for marginal gains wherever possible resulting in positive impacts on the final product.

DfMA is one construction concept that has embraced – Black Box Thinking. DfMA – Design for Manufacture and Assembly represents a shift in the way construction is outputted.

In this client series we will look closely at this phenomenon of DfMA and talk to the market leaders of this process PCE Ltd and their method of HybriDfMA, as well as their innovation of PreCast Core – Modular Core Construction.

Who are PCE Ltd

PCE Ltd started in 1973, with their first off site construction erected over 30 years ago in 1987 Reading Railway Station – a 12 split multi storey car park structure – This project made history by being the first offsite engineered Car Park to be constructed in the UK. Since then PCE Ltd have gone from strength to strength, producing more and more construction projects using their HybriDfMA method whilst incorporating their PreFastCore system on multi storey projects.

PCE Ltd haven’t rested on their laurels on being a market leader of HybriDfMA, they intend to continue to lead the way within the construction industry and are also part of The Construction Innovation Hub – a government backed programme that will transform the UK construction industry. The mandate of The Construction Innovation Hub (which includes major construction companies such as Skanska, Mace, Kier) is to show – Innovation that demonstrates whole-life value, lower carbon and energy use, better safety and quality that will improve the overall performance of buildings. PCE being part of this programme shows the commitment they are implementing to keep the construction industry as innovative and developmental as possible.

“Extremely happy to share knowledge, have a common goal and accelerate our industry to where it belongs”. Darren Waller, PCE Ltd, Senior Project Manager

What is PCE’s HybriDfMA?

DfMA combines two methodologies – Design for Manufacture and Design for Assembly. These two concepts work in tandem. If you can design a product from the outset that minimises complexity, using cost effective materials and production, this in turn allows the assembly process to be much quicker whilst reducing cost. The overall result reduces material, overhead and labour costs, all in all being a more efficient build.

PCE’s HybriDfMA solution works off this methodology and goes further to create a combination of precast and insitu concrete together with structural steelwork. This process embodies the DfMA process as it enables fast build, efficiency, reduced vehicle movements on site therefore reducing congestion and disruption. The Kingston Town House which we will cover further is a testament to their successful process.

What makes DfMA so popular?

The construction industry has lots of involvement from other industries, therefore, change and innovation can sometimes take a long time to infiltrate into the industry. Modernisation is the only way in which the construction industry can develop at the rate needed to keep up with government requirements on; climate change, housing shortages, low levels in manufacturing and skills shortage. Hence PCE’s use of HybriDfMA, the principles of DfMA addresses the much of the governments agenda and makes a difference within the industry.

The fundamentals and benefits of DfMA –

  • The use of standardised components (that are widely used)
  • Designing for ease especially during assembly
  • Minimise the use of flexible components that can be difficult to assemble
  • Use of modular designs, where automated or manual assembly are easily implemented
  • Standardised final packaging process (if required)

The fundamentals of DfMA benefits the construction and engineering industry in numerous was from;

  • Cost, by decreasing parts subsequently labour required can overall decrease the cost of assembly
  • DfMA offers a speed element, having a shorter time required on-site through the use off-site prefabricated elements reduces any project significantly
  • Having the ability to test, the design stage of the process really allows those on the project to see beforehand the end result and any issues that may arise. Introducing the use of BIM is a huge beneficial part of the process
  • Time, efficiency and reliability is increased, buy reducing the number of parts decreases the chance of failure.
  • Safety impacts greatly reduces, especially when you are able to remove construction activities off site into a controlled environment.
  • Sustainability a huge area at the moment where less waste is now generated in the construction phase reduction in vehicle movements and transporting materials to site, overall improving logistics.

Over the next few weeks, we will look closely at how PCE Ltd have used their HybriDfMA method to the fullest potential. Delving into their projects and covering one of their most successful projects Kingston University Town House Project. This project and more really showcases why they are market leader within their space for HybriDfMA.

“At PCE we treat the (A) = assembly part of DFMA as assembly on and off site. We ensure at the concept stage there is a full understanding what the requirements are for the on and off-site assembly methods. This forces the design requirements, so we are designing something that is going to work weeks down the line in the factory environment and whilst constructing on site.

Darren Waller goes on further to explain why HybridFMA is perfect for them on projects. “Our strategy to do as much as we can off site, even if it is to install a shutter for the onsite benefit or placing all loose items in a way that they do not become separate lifts with the crane, this is driven hard and when we are assembling the onsite works we continue with the manufacturing mindset to count minutes and seconds rather than days and weeks.”