Monday, April 30, 2018

Three Terms the Modular Housing Industry Needs to Understand

Just two decades ago one of the biggest advances in technology was going from bag phones that weighed about 6 pounds and was strictly used for making phone calls to those analog flip phones that we all pulled out of our pockets and ‘flipped’ open like we were on board Star Trek’s Enterprise.

I recently heard that there are about 100,000,000 phone apps for use in every part of our lives. A police report estimated there are over 265,000 apps written for criminal activity. Every morning as you climb out of bed there are approximately another 10,000 new computer and phone apps born while you slept.

Honestly, most of them are written for very specific tasks that might only be used within a small framework of people. People write apps just for their own use account for a lot of these new apps. Writing apps is easy today.

Innovative technology in construction has provided fodder for even more apps.

Many in the modular housing industry think they are up to date on current trends and new technology but few are thinking of how to apply them to their business, either at the factory or the builder level. Simply knowing these new technologies exist is foreign for most in modular housing.

Related article: Modular Housing Needs to Adapt to Future Technology

Here are three technologies the modular housing industry at least needs to know about. Having a basic knowledge of each will help you hire someone that is familiar with them. Writing job descriptions for these new hires will be much easier if you actually know what they are working on.

BIM - Building Information Model

BIM describes the process of designing a building collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models rather than as separate sets of drawings.

It offers enormous gains in saving in cost and time, much greater accuracy in estimation, and the avoidance of error, alterations and rework due to information loss.

Pinning down what BIM really means is easier said than done. The above definition comes from the National Institute of Building Sciences in the United States, but many alternatives have been suggested. Where they all agree is that BIM is the marriage of a technology and a set of work processes. Different definitions put the emphasis on either one or the other but there is widespread acceptance that they would be incomplete without both parts. It’s important to note that one coherent system of models means exactly that – collaboration within disciplines isn’t enough. Everyone involved must work together.

If you have decided that you ‘need’ BIM simply because it is something everyone is talking about, be aware that actually deciding how to use it in your factory or business may be completely different than another factory’s use. It could take quite a while to get installed and have everyone jump on board.

AR - Augmented Reality

The origin of the word augmented is augment, which means to add or enhance something. In the case of Augmented Reality (also called AR), graphics, sounds, and touch feedback are added into our natural world to create an enhanced user experience.

Unlike virtual reality, which requires you to inhabit an entirely virtual environment, augmented reality uses your existing natural environment and simply overlays virtual information on top of it. As both virtual and real worlds harmoniously coexist, users of augmented reality experience a new and improved natural world where virtual information is used as a tool to provide assistance in everyday activities.

Imagine you are a modular home builder that just had a 4 module 2 story home set and as you walk through it prior to beginning the finishing process you put an AR helmet visor on as you walk through you see where all the electrical lines are run behind the walls, all the plumbing drops are located and all the special items you ordered but can’t see because they are hidden.

AR takes the plans that were drawn and overlays them in the real rooms you are walking through. Yeah, I know, pretty freakin’ awesome!


By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology is the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, (Buy Bitcoin) the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.

Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.

The traditional way of sharing documents with collaboration is to send a Microsoft Word document to another recipient, and ask them to make revisions to it. The problem with that scenario is that you need to wait until receiving a return copy before you can see or make other changes because you are locked out of editing it until the other person is done with it. That’s how databases work today. Two owners can’t be messing with the same record at once.

Imagine a continuous loop of information about the builder’s customer being available to everyone from the factory engineering department to production to transportation to the third party inspection services all in real time updated every 10 minutes. If pricing is taken out of the loop, even the builder’s customer can be part of it. Now that could be scary!

Of the three things mentioned here, Blockchain may be the hardest to implement in our industry.

1 comment:

NYBuilder said...

A fourth term to go with these three...PRIVATE EQUITY. The only way our industry is going to adapt these technologies, which are all great, is if the manufacturers start to look for outside investment from businesses who can spend money in order to make it. Waiting for any of the current ownership groups to make serious investments in these technologies is a waste of time.