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19th Oct 2021
The conventional notion for project managers is to have a hard hat and heavy boots to control the processes in a construction site. Yet, will this be the case in forthcoming years? When larger portions of construction projects gradually move into factories, are project managers skilled enough to oversee assembly lines and manufacturing processes? Will the same number of project managers be needed to guide construction projects within a factory? Are the project managers skilled in dealing with complex multi-model production methods?
In this article Professor Srinath Perera and Buddhini Ginigaddara from the Centre for Smart Modern Construction (c4SMC), Western Sydney University discuss the prediction model c4SMC is creating to answer these types of questions, indicating what type of skills are needed for a project that has offsite construction elements.
Researchers have identified the definite shift of construction from risky, wasteful, less-sustainable traditional onsite construction to safe, technology-driven, and environment-friendly offsite manufacturing facilities. Such a paradigm shift of construction gives birth to many new skills which are not quite common in a typical construction site.
In order to predict the possibilities of such skill changes, we have developed a typology of offsite construction that succinctly captures all the possible factory-made building elements.
As you can see in the pictures, there are five offsite construction types falling under non-volumetric and volumetric categories.
Components have a severe resemblance to traditional onsite construction projects as they can be of any shape or size with the common examples of doors, windows, trusses, fittings and fixtures. Panels are flat surfaces that do not create usable space on their own. Factory-made floor, ceiling and wall panels are assembled onsite to erect an offsite constructed building.
The three volumetric types have an ascending order of complexity from pods, modules to complete buildings.
The research included a rigorous review of 12 case studies to capture the skill quantities used in different offsite construction projects that fall under the developed typology. The skill quantities are recognised under six skill categories:
Out of these six skill categories, construction project managers are recognised, along with four other managerial positions of general managers, engineering managers, production managers, and supply, distribution and production managers. The diagram illustrates the utilisation of the skills of managers for the different offsite construction types.
The skills are quantified using ‘manhours/m2’ which indicates the number of manhours used to construct a single square meter of the gross floor area in a building. It presents how the use of construction project managers in complex offsite construction projects such as complete buildings are minimal compared to the other managerial positions such as production managers, and supply, distribution, and production managers.
Interestingly, construction project managers have been able to secure a considerably important position under panels, pods, and modules. Offsite construction requires early stakeholder engagement, and integration to manage the process of design, manufacturing, transportation, and assembly and the project managers are vital in handling these processes. As such, it is found that the project managers’ role has to evolve to match with offsite construction techniques which are not visible in a traditional construction site.
The recommended actions to improve project managers’ capabilities in handling offsite construction projects are two-fold.
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