Planning for Modularization Becomes Next CII Best Practice

Austin, TX – CII is pleased to announce that Planning for Modularizationhas been promoted to a CII Best Practice. CII’s Knowledge Management Committee approved the topic at its October 28 meeting in Houston. Validation was accomplished through post-research analysis done by the Modularization Community of Practice.

Modularization entails the large-scale transfer of stick-built construction from the jobsite to local or distant fabrication shops and yards in order to exploit any strategic advantages. Thus, modularization may be considered a form of project business and execution strategy. While this approach has become particularly relevant to the industrial side of the capital projects industry over the last 25 years, projects are still in need of detailed guidance on how to effectively exploit modularization. While modularization benefits are significant, the industry has been slow to achieve higher levels of modularization, except under extreme conditions.

Planning for Modularization is not necessarily focused on promoting or marketing the concept of modularization, but rather on helping project teams better understand whether modularization is the right strategy for the project and, if so, how they can successfully implement the strategy to achieve improved outcomes in cost, schedule, safety, and quality while mitigating issues such as skilled craft labor shortages and extreme weather.

To identify key high-value practices in need of change or adaptation to project work processes, Industrial Modularization Research Team 283 sought to compare an idealized all-modular work process with current, largely stick-built work processes. In addition, the team tried to isolate and characterize related critical success factors, and to identify and describe strategies that, when deployed with a focus on the critical success factors, can help the industry move toward higher levels of modularization.

While many of RT 283’s research findings may apply equally to the commercial and infrastructure sectors, the scope of the study primarily focused on the industrial sector. This area of the market includes, among others, process and manufacturing facilities such as offshore facilities, petrochemical plants, power plants, and pharmaceutical plants.

Findings from this research led to the development of five distinct solution elements. Each of these elements is significant in its own way and should play an important role in achieving higher levels of modularization:

  1. Business case process. The modularization business case process should be applied at the earliest opportunity. It should start as early as the Opportunity Framing phase and be analyzed in greater depth during the Assessment phase. For the industry to truly advance, project teams would be better served by making the modular approach the default approach.
  2. Execution plan differences. The research team identified more than 100 differences between how modular and stick-built projects should be planned and executed. Moreover, the team assigned these different planning and execution processes to their appropriate phases of implementation. Nearly half of them are applicable during the Basic Design phase.
  3. Critical success factors. The research team identified 21 high-impact critical success factors (CSFs), noting that the industry appears to be having difficulty achieving many of them. Owner responsibilities for CSF achievement during the Assessment and Selection phases are especially significant.
  4. Standardization strategy. The benefits of combining modularization with design standardization deserve special consideration. Two basic approaches exist: 1) the development of standardized modules; and 2) the development of modular standardized plants (MSPs). The business case for standardization should recognize 10 types of economic advantages and three types of economic disadvantages or tradeoffs. The research team developed an eight-step implementation process for the MSP strategy; the team also performed an MSP case study to provide further insight into strategy implementation.
  5. Modularization maximization enablers. Lastly, industry-wide barriers continue to challenge the broad-based application of modularization. The fifth solution element consists of a listing of 10 counter-measures to address these industry-level challenges.

In summary, Planning for Modularization represents an approach for owners and contractors that can maximize modularization benefits across the construction industry and around the globe. For more information, specific details of modularization along with implementation resources are found in CII’s RT 283 publications:

In addition, a Modularization Toolkit has been offered by the Modularization Community of Practice to provide a set of practical tools to assist those wanting to evaluate the potential for a modular solution and to assist project teams with better planning and execution of a modular project. The tools are designed to complement the findings from RT 283 and are available for member download from the Modularization COP webpage.

Date posted: December 11, 2015