Friday, December 27, 2019

Modular Construction Needs Postmortems

Builders may leave one factory and go to another simply because of a couple small problematic scenarios. Or a developer may not be happy with how the project turned out. And what about all the closings we are starting to see happening in both the modular and prefab construction industries?

Were they preventable? Right now the answer to that question is a resounding NO!

However, there could be a way to look at what happens in a new light when a bad situation happens between any of these entities, even if they were successfully resolved.

What our industry needs is a forensic team to perform a Postmortem of the situation looking deeper into who or what caused the problem in the first place as well as why it happened. Only then can a real solution to a possibly on-going problem ever be exposed and repaired.

Those findings could be shared with everyone in our industry or simply kept between the builder and the factory.

The first step to accomplishing a successful Postmortem is assembling an independent team of 2-3 people knowledgeable for each problem. This is very important as a commercial modular factory expert may not be the best person to do a postmortem on a residential modular factory and builder problem.

Since modular construction is an industry where the product, which isn’t completely finished in the factory, is handed off many times before the house or project is complete, it is almost inevitable that something will go wrong and at the most inopportune time causing problems that ripple all the way through the chain.

However, saying our industry needs a postmortem team that can look at the problems that have occurred in the past with the results made public so we all learn from them and actually seeing it come to fruition is not going to happen without many people ‘wanting’ it to happen.

Other industries have postmortem teams available and use them quite often, not only to try to understand why something went wrong but also to look at why something went right and write about it in a report that is shared with others in the industry.

Unfortunately, the modular housing industry and in fact even the commercial modular industry is more accustomed to playing the same blame game over and over again until that becomes the routine.

The real benefit of a modular industry postmortem team just might be found in the actual talking about creating the team.

Imagine for a moment a group of factory service managers, sales managers, set crew owners, builders and even a state code official or two sitting around a table and openly discussing situations that have occured and hearing what each has to contribute.

That would be a great first step to solving some of our industry’s recurring problems and maybe even arriving at a few solutions.

Another great first step for any modular factory would be to give the Service Manager the authority to call a postmortem meeting inviting anyone they think had a hand in creating the problem, from the production line worker to the CEO. Nobody leaves until the problem is acknowledged and a plan is worked out to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Start at the factory level, then add factory/builder postmortems where you bring in anyone else that may have a solution.

Now let’s take a new look at that problem nobody talks about.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker/consultant. Contact


Builder Bob said...

As usual, a great article but just wait five years and the entire modular industry may need a postmortem.

John Higgs said...

For my mind post mortems are too late. Let’s talk about Pre mortems.

We work in post production logistics through to install.

We are guided by our clients who recognise the importance of planning and treat the build site as an outdoor production zone.

Therefore we sit in planning sessions where we are involved from the design through to install with a focus on our scope and how the current design impacts all factors from end of production line to completion of install. This provides the opportunity for our client to understand what the costs of their designs are completed so they can either change the design or own at the front end what the final cost will be.

We do have the ability to sell a flat rate turn key However only when we can work in the above manner with our customers.

If you want any recent examples reach out as happy to share as whilst we have solved some problems we still have a long list in both volumetric and panelised

This is done digitally so all clash points are identified before design reaches final approval.

Paul said...

Gary Post mortems are for when you are dead. Any way you view it Modular manufacturing is just that....manufacturing. Its in the planning. Once the design is finalized, all parties from design through to production including sub contractors should build it on the table. You go through every drawing one by one and everybody talks it through until you have manufactured every module variant even if it takes you all day , found where the tricky bits might be, flag them up and then when you build each mock up make sure that they are taken care of even it means the "as built" has to be redrawn if some details are altered for the better. After a mock up or 1st module is complete do a "lessons learned" to make sure everything is captured and any punch on that module is not repeated.