An aerial view of the A14 highway construction site, which Skanska are working on. © James Walker/Highways England
An aerial view of the A14 highway construction site, which Skanska are working on. © James Walker/Highways England

‘Flying factories’ make construction more efficient

21 October 2019

Construction firm, Skanska, has been using portable factories – or flying factories, as they describe them – to deliver projects quickly and efficiently.

Dale Turner, director of procurement and supply chain at Skanska, said temporary facilities are set up off-site near the construction project which then use technology to speed up the building process.

Speaking to SM, Turner explained: “The factories are made up of lorries with robots, equipment and materials inside to make the required parts there and then.”

Skanska utilised its portable factories on the £1.5bn A14 highway scheme in the east of England, and has seen the technology lead to great efficiencies. 

“We had a factory to make all the individual components off-site which could then be craned in to make up the bridge pieces,” Turner said. “You could make all the individual components, like jigsaw pieces that come together. All of these different moulds of concrete could be made by the flying factory and get placed in afterwards.” 

The off-site construction model makes for shorter installation time and a better use of manpower because large components can be put in place on-site simultaneously.

The factories are organised depending on the project size and specification and are often prepared in advance. Managing the capacity of workload is a key benefit as firms “can spread the amount of time and resources required to do the project”.

“The difference is we're not going to somebody else's factory and asking them to make it for us and then bringing it in,” Turner said. “We're actually moving something closer to the project. From a logistics perspective, there are benefits in terms of carbon reduction and reducing the time of journeys.”

The factories form part of Skanska’s digital transformation which began in 2016 to improve productivity and efficiency.

Dale Turner will be discussing how to create value through technology at the CIPS UK Conference 2019 in London on 31 October-1 November.

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