Lean Construction Techniques Help Define Costs for More Competitive Bidding

lightbulb.gifThose words are familiar to every independent electrical contractor who considers bidding on large, institutional projects. How does a contractor accurately bid on a project, considering the intensive work needed to assemble the thousands of products that route, support, protect, and terminate the electrical system?

Many electrical contractors are finding that adopting lean construction techniques allows them to estimate costs more accurately. As a result, 40 percent of electrical contractors now consider prefabrication and modular construction a core part of their strategic initiatives, while 82 percent of contractors use building information modeling (BIM) in some form and expect their BIM use to increase by 50 percent over the next two years.

It’s no surprise, then, that two-thirds of the top 50 electrical contractors have committed to using lean construction techniques. What is more surprising is that a third have yet to do so.

Lean construction methods for electrical systems installation include prefabrication and modular construction, which significantly reduce the extent of labor required at the job site. Electrical contractors typically make a net profit of two to three percent on facility construction projects, but can double that figure by increasing labor productivity by five to ten percent. Reduction in waste, such as parts and materials being scrapped and labor time being used inefficiently, is the purpose of lean construction.

Improving operational efficiency for electrical components installation has led to the use of rough-in systems that are specially designed made to order and project specific. These rough-in systems reduce a substantial number of touch points as well as the amount of waste. The goal is to supply the project site with only the minimal and essential amount of parts, materials, equipment, labor hours, and space to enhance the value of the project to the contractor.

In addition to the use of rough-in systems, costs may be reduced through the use of electronic tools that enable easy access to drawings and personnel for project planning; accurate estimates for initial costs; design tools, such as BIM; packaging and labeling that conforms tojob-site use; and the availability of parts, materials, and equipment through a widespread supply distribution network. An example of an electronic tool that integrates configuration of rough-insystems, cost estimation, BIM, packaging, and shipping is eFab™ by T&B®, an online tool that facilitates the design, assembly, and procurement of electrical boxes and related products under the Steel City® brand.

Installations in walls and ceilings represent a substantial portion of a facility construction project’s labor hours and profitability; reducing the former will enhance the latter. Whether the contractor is seeking to enhance profits or look for cost reductions that will enable more competitive bidding, both on-site labor and waste are critical.

Waste can be found in any materials, parts, space, or labor hours that exceed what is absolutely needed for a wall or ceiling installation. One method of using lean construction to reduce on-site installation labor hours is to have rough-in components, such as electrical boxes, pigtails, brackets, rings, and fittings assembled in advance to conform to the project’s specific needs. The use of preassembled rough-in systems can save as much as 50 percent of rough-in labor costs as well as provide a quick, easy, and safe wall or ceiling installation.

Another advantage of using preassembled rough-in systems is the reduction of parts and materials waste by reducing on-site inventory to only those assemblies needed for the specific facility construction project. The result is as much as a 40-percent savings in direct materi