Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Is the Pop-Up Factory the Future of Modular Housing?

A developer needs 200 homes in the Boston area. A builder needs 150 in West Virginia, a developer needs 300 condos in Dallas and the list goes on.

Prefabricated walls and trusses usually serve these builders and developers as the current modular home factory network can never seem to add these to their current production within the time frame needed without abandoning their builder base.

And if a modular factory does attempt to do it the distance from the factory gate to the builder/developers' job site is usually a couple hundred miles away at least. That means lots of modules stacked up in the factory’s yard, lots of carriers and truck drivers.

Now imagine a empty warehouse with tall and wide overhead doors suddenly being turned into a modular home factory building out a specific project or two and then being turned back to the lessor to rent to someone else.

This is not a pipe dream. It is already being discussed in dark corners of the construction world. Pop-Up Factories!

A short assembly line with several portable overhead cranes, panelized walls, floors and trusses from an outside supplier, subcontracted framing, plumbing, HVAC and electrical with the finish work and quality assurance being done by the factory’s employees. Carriers and trucking by leased agents. Less than an hour from the jobsite. Set crews, cranes and finish crews subcontracted by the factory.

Dedicated to just one or two small to medium projects over a short period of time.

Most of these projects would occur in or close by the top 10 metro markets where the extra cost of factory construction would be offset somewhat by the lower cost of transportation and repetitive construction.

Many modular factories have decentralized engineering, marketing and sales departments but have a central factory. What if a company had centralized services but decentralized factories. Factories that could be ready for production within 30-90 days and relocated within 30 days to another empty warehouse in another city?

The factory would be designed for small-batch production. 600–2,000 modules would appear to be the new sweet spot according to the people I’ve talked with. Compared with the high costs of a full work force in a central location delivering homes up to 8-10 hours away, a small pop-up factory should be capable of producing 6-8 modules a day in an 8-hour day.

One company. Centralized Services. No permanent factories. Job specific.

It’s already in the planning stages folks!


Darren B said...

I see a lot of negatives to this. It might work in some instances but not enough to move forward. Don't know who would be foolish enough to think this could work.

Builder Bob said...

Wake up Darren. This isn't the 1980's. Modular construction is the future of housing and this seems like a very unique way to bring modular housing closer to total acceptance.

Bill Hart said...
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Brad W said...

Bill, you are right about selling to "Big Tract", but why can't a modular manufacturer(s) become a "Big Tract" in time?

Bill Hart said...
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Anonymous said...

When Clayton becomes a major site build provider and joins the ranks of the "Majors" in their world "pigs may fly" as the saying goes.

Bill Hart said...
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Anonymous said...

Sounds good in principal. You can create a factory with movable equipment, pack it all up and reassemble someplace else. But what about the people? You'd still have to recruit and train teams of people in each new city. And given the business model they'd all know that they're going to be fired in 6 months when the show leaves town. Unless you're practically all robotic, I'm missing something here

Steve L said...

Here is an example

Unknown said...

I believe in Local.
I belive in Pre-Fab.
I believe in Off-Site.
I believe in ReUse of existing buildings.
I believe in Pop-Up.
Now that you know what I believe, you should also know that I have done all of those things.

and more...

Josh Margulies said...

Sounds radical. Moving a factory - well the Russians did it.