To reduce labor costs and improve construction schedules, Cox Electric, Inc. uses “just-in-time” and “lean” manufacturing practices. Our small but mighty team focuses on organization, planning, materials procurement and delivery to work faster, better, and more cost-effectively. We’re continually looking for new ways to apply modeling and prefabrication to shave off time and costs, and to reduce waste and storage at the construction site.
Prefabrication, preassembly, modularization and off-site fabrication are all forms of prework. Prework refers to construction activities that occur away from the project location. As the construction industry continues to face challenges such as labor shortages, expedited project schedules and increasingly complex electrical systems, electrical contractors are adopting innovative approaches that include project prework.
The most common form of prework among electrical contractors is prefabrication and pre-assembly.
A process that takes place in a specialized are of our warehouse facility where materials are fabricated to form a component part of a final installation. Electrical junction boxes with offset bent conduit chase and connector as an example.
A process where materials and/or equipment are assembled together in our warehouse as a sub-unit and then shipped for final installation on the project. Lighting fixtures with trim and/or pre-cut and assembled whips as an example.
There are many advantages to performing project pre-work or prefabrication including reduced waste, more efficient use of man-power, decreased investment in expensive tools, and opportunity to provide training for new apprentices and labor employees desiring to become apprentice electricians.
Prefabrication starts with project planning. The process includes detailing the drawings to identify opportunities for items and then organizing the prefabrication process. Organization requires thoughtful planning and management to detail when the items will be needed, how long it the prefabrication process with take and the logistics of delivery of items to the project site.
The actual prefabrication can occur anywhere there is space to complete the work. In some instances, this is a dedicated work area on the project site. This area may be outfitted with additional worktables, tools and/or power requirements to complete the work in a safe and productive manner. Other times this work is completed at the Cox Electric warehouse.
When the prefabricated items are completed, the items must be packaged and delivered to the job site. Getting the right package to the right place requires a labeling system that is accurate and easy to understand.
“Just In Time” is the most important aspect of the transportation of these prefabricated materials. Too early and we risk damage or theft of the materials. Too late and we are losing our manpower and project schedule gains from performing the prefabrication in the first place. Cox Electric keeps a small fleet of empty box vans to ensure just on time delivery of our prefabricated materials.
Live and Learn on Closeout
A vastly important but often overlooked final step to prefabrication is the close out. Our team meets together to review how well the process contributed to the project through the eyes of our installers and project foreman as well as how well the process contributed to our job cost bottom line. It is important to Cox Electric that we are innovating, improving, and refining our prefabrication practices on every project. We don’t get bogged down in how we have always done it, we focus on learning through our experience.