By: Don Hamme Senior Project Manager IPS-Integrated Project Services, LLC
A lot has been written about the benefits of using modular construction techniques in the Pharmaceutical industry. However, an area that is frequently not addressed is the risk, identifying and analyzing the risks that are present when using this approach. All of the risks can be effectively mitigated but they cannot be overlooked if the project is going to be successful.
Most projects will incorporate some combination of modular and constructed-in-place elements. The interface between the two types of elements must be coordinated very precisely in advance to ensure everything aligns. If rework of the coordinated/constructed elements is required once the modules arrive on site, then there will be reduced cost and schedule impacts from using a modular approach. Very careful coordination with fierce attention to the details can prevent this situation.
Modules must be constructed with the correct tolerances to allow integration into the larger project. Fractions of an inch do matter. Plumb, square, and level are just as critical. Module fabrication should be done by a company with a proven track record and successful experience in this area. Careful coordination of the interface details will not matter if fabrication tolerances are not followed.
Transportation of some modular elements like walls and ceiling do not pose a major concern unlike super skids and modularized building sections that can potentially be challenging. While the intent is to use modules that are as large as possible, shipping dimensions for the modules must be coordinated with the various requirements of each state the modules will travel through. Once the modules arrive at the project, the site logistics are just as important. Complete logistics plans for how the modules will arrive on site, be staged, and moved into and through the structure should be finalized well before the modules arrive. Delays and lack of coordination during this portion of the effort may result in additional exposure of the modules to weather risking damage to sensitive components, congestion on the project site, and an inability to move the modules to their final location.
All of the above risks can effectively be managed and do not offset the usually considerable benefits of modularization. Not addressing them can certainly impact both the cost and schedule benefits of modularization.