Standardisation in Construction (CRISP)
reportposted on 06.07.2017, 10:02 by Alistair Gibb
Background This report was commissioned by the Technologies and Components Task Group of the Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel (CRISP). Its purpose is to identify, illustrate and where possible categorise recent and current initiatives on standardisation and customisation, particularly within UK construction. Standardisation is the extensive use of processes or procedures, products or components, in which there is regularity, repetition and a record of successful practice. Customisation is the process of using standard components or sub-assemblies to produce a variety of end products to suit the needs of the end-user. Technical standards (e.g. ISO) are not included in this review. Current Research Between 1997 and 2000, almost £6.7 million has been invested by DETR and EPSRC in research projects that include standardisation and customisation in construction. Of this total figure, around £1.1 million covers general innovation which includes standardisation, with the remainder concentrating more specifically on standardisation. The main schemes that have funded standardisation research in the UK construction sector include the EPSRC/DETR Innovative Manufacturing Initiative (Meeting Clients’ Needs through Standardisation) and the DETR Partners in Innovation programme. There is much work that claims to cover standardisat ion, often combined in some way with pre-assembly or general innovation. Pre-assembly research is covered in a separate report for CRISP (00/19). Many of the projects are still underway and so a full review was not possible. The appendices include summaries of the research projects, patent records and professional journal articles reviewed. The research projects reviewed are spread across t he industry sectors and involve most of the industry bodies and many universities although the main players are Salford, Loughborough and Warwick Universities and the Building Research Establishment. There appears to be little direct collaboration between projects. In some ways this is to be expected as the subject itself is very diverse. Nevertheless, further benefits should be possible by seeking to draw together the results from the various projects and to encourage the different parties to collaborate on future projects. The deliverables from existing projects are varied in quality and format, with some focussed on dissemination to industrial end-users and others more suitable for academic audiences. Some of the more academic deliverables may be able to be developed into tool kits or other industry-focussed output. Further benefits for dissemination are possible th rough the EPSRC’s industrial secondment scheme. Some international work has been related to the UK situation, but this study has not included a full international review. Motivators, facilitators, barriers and implications Motivators, facilitators, barriers and implications include: clients and the project team; procurement methods and supply chain relationships; formal/contractual requirements; legislation; moving construction towards a manufacturing process; whole life costing, sustainability and waste reduction; people issues, skills and training; new materials and technologies; information and communications technology; pre- assembly; and the measurement of success. There are also some sector-specific issues. Leading repeat-order clients are at the forefront of research and implementat ion of standardisation, convinced that significant savings can be made. The benefits are not so obvious to one-off clients and this offers a real challenge for the future although some work is just about to start in this area. There are competing drivers within project teams, with those involved in long-term strategic relationships better able to realise the benefits. This is also true for a ll parties in the supply-chain where the effect of standardisation may be relatively insignificant when considered company by company, but adds considerable value when employed within an overall supply-chain strategy. However, the cultural barriers to standardisation should not be underestimated, especially within the design professions. The most significant challenges are to combine top quality design with the principles of customised standardisation and to change the construction process into a manufacturing process without returning to the mass production of the 1950s and ‘60s.. The principles have been identified but they are not yet employed consistently. Standardisation has generally led to reduced cost and improved quality, but occasionally there have been examples where the specification of a standard product has not produced these expected outcomes. The whole supply chain needs to be engaged in research to prevent this from recurring. As the supply chain develops, then better deployment of some of the standardised ICT applications and data handling methods will be required. This may occur in any case and at considerable speed, driven by commercial pressures and may not require specific research input. Whilst there has been research on standard processes and changing the construction process to a manufacturing process, there is little direct investigat ion into the effect of standardisation on formal or contractual requirements or their effect on standar disation. The same is true for legislation. Whole life costing and sustainability have been much talked about, but there is little direct research on the causal relationship with standardisation. The availability of spare parts for example is a clear driver, but there appear to have been no rigorous studies to eval uate whether such expected benefits are achieved in practice. There is significant opportunity for human factors work on standardisation, both in evaluating the effect on construction workers, end-users and the general public. The link between standardisation and innovation has been identified in principle, but more development of strategies to ensure that standardisation does not act ually act as a barrier to product improvement or innovation could be beneficial. Benefits from standardisation have been identified in much of the previous and existing work, but accurate measurement of these benefits remains elusive. Working on this further with leading repeat order clients may be possible, but overcoming the desire for headline statistics may prove difficult. Conclusions There is much existing research work looking at standardisation, although it is often combined with broader subjects. Furthermore, the subject is very broad and as a result projects are diverse and hard to draw together as one body of knowledge. Much of the work is not coordinated well and benefits may be gained from further efforts in this area. Further work should be encouraged especially where it effectively engages the whole supply chain and is targeted on producing end-user guidance.
- Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering