DfMA and BIM: Hot topics or still misunderstood
With the industry awash with reports, case studies and opinion pieces, it is unlikely that anyone working in construction will not know about BIM – it has been and still is the buzzword of the industry. Perhaps less well known, however, is the Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) and the RIBA DfMA overlay to its Digital Plan of Works (DPoW).
In conjunction with the Offsite Management School, the RIBA published DfMA in September 2016, in order to encourage architects (and the wider industry) to engage with offsite manufacturing and assembly. By providing a ‘DfMA Overlay’ to the DPoW, which itself underwent a massive up date by the RIBA in 2013, the industry has been given an informative document to show how digital processes and offsite manufacturing can – and should – be linked together. Indeed, both BIM and DfMA offer many practical benefits, which facilitate greater offsite manufacturing and minimises onsite construction.
DfMA isn’t the same as offsite construction, or even offsite manufacturing. It takes the processes further: from construction to assembly. Assembly is an engineered manufacturing process that includes:
- Correct first time products and components
- Accurate manufacturing and assembly tolerances
When you add design to the assembly process, it becomes clear why BIM and DfMA are such ideal partners. Design, an inherently virtual process, can be carried out digitally to ensure that the components, modules and assets are defined and detailed in accordance with the customer requirements; tested virtually before manufacture; coordinated for assembly; and approved by all of the necessary stakeholders first – which are all BIM processes. Therefore by adopting BIM first, it gives individual parties and the wider team a perfect opportunity to roll out DfMA as one of the BIM processes on a scheme.
DfMA, like BIM, requires a cultural and behavioural change in the mind-sets of everyone, from the customer, design team and supply chain, through to the operators and maintenance teams responsible for the asset. If just one of these parties isn’t aligned, the project at best will not be as good as it could have been, or at worst will ensure the existing prejudices against DfMA and offsite are perpetuated.
Despite structural steel fabricators, precast concrete and modular offsite manufacturers understanding the benefits of DfMA, designers, customers, end users and more importantly, principal contractors, can regularly be reluctant to incorporate it within a project.
With this in mind, if the industry is to develop, move forward and even begin to consider ways to deliver on the Government Construction 2025 report, then it has to consider DfMA from the outset, combining this with the rigorous digital processes that BIM offers. As noted by Mark Farmer in his review of the UK Construction Labour Model, which was published just a month after the RIBA DfMA overlay, it really is ‘Modernise or Die – time to decide the industry’s future’.