Risk vs reward
One major advantage of using MMC is that they can mitigate the risk of injury to workers on site and members of public who live or travel close to the construction area. Building remotely helps minimise the risk of onsite accidents by reducing the need to bring heavy plant and machinery to the site.
Off-site construction methods also have the potential to cut material wastage, boost the reuse of equipment, and minimise the need for specialist labour onsite. For example, bringing pre-assembled equipment onto the site and simply plugging it into the network will improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Modular systems bring benefits
While there are many off-site products, modular systems have been widely used in the rail sector for some time. They provide the most complete in factory finish and allow structural units to be joined on site. These methods have been developed and standardised with signalling and Overhead Line Equipment (OLE), as well as on track with Switches & Crossing (S&C) installations.
Alternatively, teams of specialists can build units off-track at a separate location, in a dedicated compound or ‘build-up area’. However, this approach can raise issues around land agreements and consent, which have potential to escalate project costs and cause delays.
Adopting risk management best practice
To mitigate any risks associated with off-site construction, project managers should follow risk management best practice. They should start by carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment and analysis. This will help to identify and quantify risks and opportunities around the project, so appropriate mitigation strategies can be put in place. Specialist support may be needed in carrying out workshops with major stakeholders to secure buy in for any cost contingencies required.
Despite their potential to reduce the overall risk profile of projects, MMC can also bring associated risks such as time delays linked to transporting modular units from the factory to the site. Detailed route planning, specifications around load/size requirements and liaison with third parties (highways, local councils etc.) can all help to reduce the risk of costly delays and budget overruns.
Once the project is underway, managers should be conducting regular risk assessments. By sticking to this approach from the design stage through to completion, decision-making processes and project outcomes can be improved.
For project managers, MMC can bring some specific risks, but if these are managed successfully, they have the potential to revolutionise projects going forward.
First published at UK Construction Online