Industrial Modularization: How to Optimize; How to Maximize (Best Practice)

RT-283 Topic Summary
RT 283


Modularization entails the large-scale transfer of stick-build construction effort from the jobsite to one or more local or distant fabrication shops/yards in order to exploit one or more strategic advantages. However, the construction industry has been slow to achieve high levels of modularization and has reached a ceiling in terms of the percentage of stick-built work hours being exported offsite. RT-283 addressed the question of what changes or adaptations in traditional project work processes are required to create an optimal environment for broader and more effective use of modularization. The research effort led to the development of five distinct solution elements: 1) business case process, 2) execution plan differences, 3) critical success factors, 4) standardization strategy, and 5) modularization maximization enablers.

The message is clear: for successful modularization to occur, substantial owner involvement must occur early. The scope of research limited this team’s work to the industrial sector; however, its research findings may apply equally well to the commercial and infrastructure project sectors.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Business Case Processes

The modularization business case process should be applied at the earliest opportunity. Project teams should consider the modular approach the “default” approach in order to allow the advancement of modularization in the industry. (RS283-1, p. 11)
Reference: (RS283-1)

2 : Execution Plan Differences

Identified over 100 differences for planning modularization projects.  These different planning scenarios were organized into the appropriate implementation phase with over half applicable to the design phase.  Four topics where identified pertaining to the plan differences (RS283-1, p. 14 ):
  1. Planning and cost estimating
  2. Modularization scoping, layout, and plot plan
  3. Basic design standards, models, and deliverables
  4. Detailed design deliverables
Reference: (RS283-1)

3 : Critical Success Factors

The team identified 21 high-impact CSFs and found that owner responsibilities for CSF achievement during the Assessment and Selection phases are especially significant. The industry appears to be having difficulty achieving CSFs that pertain to the following: (RS283-1, p. 16)

  • Owner’s planning resources and processes
  • Timely design freeze
  • Early completion recognition
  • Cost savings recognition
  • Contractor leadership
  • Investment in studies
  • Vendor involvement
  • Owner delay avoidance
Reference: (RS283-1)

4 : Standardization Strategy

The benefits of combining modularization with design standardization can exceed the additive sum; therefore, these benefits deserve special consideration. The research team discerned two basic approaches: standard modules and the modular standardized plant. The business case for the modular standardized plant should recognize 10 forms of economic advantages and three forms of economic disadvantages or tradeoffs. An eight-step process has been documented for the implementation of the standardization strategy. A documented case study provides further insight into strategy implementation, benefits, and lessons learned. (RS283-1, p. 24)
Reference: (RS283-1)

5 : Modularization Maximization Enablers

Industry-wide barriers continue to challenge broad-based achievement of high levels of modularization. The team identified 10 maximization enablers and proposes them as counter-measures to these challenges, and to accelerate modularization across the industry. In some cases, concerted, broad-based industry efforts will be needed for full advancement of modularization. (RS283-1, p. 28)
Reference: (RS283-1)

6 : Lessons Learned from Modularization

CII research defines the lessons learned for Front-End Planning, Engineering, Contracts & Procurement, Fabrication, Transportation, Site Installation, and Staffing.

Reference: (RR283-11)

7 : Implementation Tool #1

IR283-2,  Industrial Modularization:  Five Solution Elements

Is the standard procedure for adopting the business case process for Modularization. (Supports Key Finding 1)  

IR283-2, Module Standardized Plant (MSP)

8 Step Process to integrate design standardization and modularization. (Supports Key Finding 4) 
Reference: (IR283-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved quality (reduced errors & omissions), Improved environmental/triple bottom line, Improved craft productivity

Research Publications

Industrial Modularization: Five Solution Elements, Version 1.1 - IR283-2

Publication Date: 02/2014 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 115 Status: Tool

Industrial Modularization: How to Optimize; How to Maximize - RR283-11

Publication Date: 04/2013 Type: Research Report Pages: 292 Status: Reference

Industrial Modularization: How to Optimize; How to Maximize - RS283-1

Publication Date: 12/2012 Type: Research Summary Pages: 33 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Modularization – How to Optimize? How to Maximize?

Publication Date: 06/2012 Presenter: Number of Slides: 20 Event Code: AC12

Implementation Session - Modularization – How to Optimize? How to Maximize?

Publication Date: 06/2012 Presenter: Number of Slides: 71 Event Code: AC12

Related Resources

Modularization Toolkit

Publication Date: 08/2015 Resource Type: CBA-produced Resource Source: Modularization CBA