What is DFMA in Construction?
Before we even talk about DFMA in construction, we need to define DFMA. DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) is a design approach that prioritizes both ease of manufacture and efficiency of assembly. It is the combination of two concepts: Design for Manufacturing (DFM) and Design for Assembly (DFA). DFMA is considered a construction innovation that is often leveraged in modular construction when implementing industrialized construction (also known in some regions as Modern Methods of Construction or MMC).
Design for manufacturing (DFM) focuses on the individual part and component levels of the design and identifies potential issues that may occur during manufacturing in terms of raw material selection, form of the material, or dimensional control and tolerance. This helps reduce production costs, minimizes the complexity of the manufacturing process, removes unnecessary design features for waste reduction, and improves product quality. DFM aims for product design optimization to ensure smoother manufacturing processes.
Design for Assembly (DFA) optimizes the assembly of a product. DFA focuses on the standardization of hardware, parts and components, sub-assemblies, and assemblies. In addition, it aims to simplify the product structure by reducing the number of parts commonly used within the assemblies, and providing a kit of parts opportunity.
The crucial concept to understand with DFMA is that it seeks to optimize overall product delivery by balancing the objectives of both DFM and DFA methodologies.
Why leverage DFMA in the construction industry?
A DFMA approach has long been leveraged in product manufacturing. Let’s take a look at the automotive industry for a minute. If you compare a Model T with any current vehicle, there are many stark differences. Some product differences such as more efficient engines, airbags, seatbelts, and entertainment systems are driven by consumer demand, regulatory requirements, or more modern technology.
However, many changes in vehicle design were implemented to make manufacturing more efficient and drive down production costs. Non-structural components such as handles, door panels, or dashboards which initially were made of metal, fabrics, or wood are now made of plastics. Most cars now no longer have a separate frame and body, instead incorporating structural strength into a unit-body design that reduces waste and simplifies the design. We can see DFMA in action with this idea today as many manufacturers pivot to electrification. For instance Tesla utilizes a structural battery combining the power source as an integral structural component going beyond the unit body concept.
Not everything in construction can be built offsite, but much of it can. The move to an offsite construction strategy for portions of your projects enables you to think about many of the constituent areas or features of your end design as a product, or package of components. This enables optimization in areas such as:
- Cost effectiveness,
- Better control over work environments for safety and weather,
- Pre-fabrication of components to enable repeatability,
- Reducing construction time, &
- Ensuring an available pool of high quality labor
Thinking about your Bill of Materials for each package or product enables you to optimize for repeatability, component design, and strategic sourcing. Over time, designs can be reused and revised to achieve the same functionality. Through repetition, your analyst and engineering teams are often able to find better solutions where alternate components can be substituted into the original design leading to lower materials costs, more efficient assembly, or repeatability which makes repairs easier and drives the skill of your workforce.
The assembly of your packages can be optimized as well. When a facility is constructed entirely onsite it’s common to have construction workers and technicians performing tasks in perilous spots. For instance, instrument installation at the top of a tower can now be done in a controlled factory environment that you’ve optimized for the task at hand. Instead of moving heavy components upwards while installing onsite you can design your factory workflow to be top down where you let gravity help you in attaching components.
Want to learn more about implementing DFMA methodology in your construction project? Schedule a time to meet with our team.