Builders are recognizing the opportunity for process innovation – risking failure, challenging business culture, and redefining operational needs. With these types of elements at play, the learning curve is steep.
A steep learning curve can mean many iterations to arrive at a successfully repeatable process, which also needs the influence and support from many different collaborators. For the BUILDER KB Home ProjeKt, the builder chose to move from a conventional build process to a prefabrication process, with a learning curve that is already delivering measurable improvements.
KB Home has built more than 2,000 homes in the Inspirada Community outside of Las Vegas where the KB Home ProjeKt: Where Tomorrow Lives will be located. Those homes have been built conventionally, each with a typical schedule of seven to 14 days.
The concept home, with a new prefabricated structure, took only two days to be complete under roof, and is expected to be streamlined even more with the right training, eventually saving an additional day.
Those efficiencies will occur after the team is able to get more comfortable with the new floor plan and the framing crew gains more experience. This will develop into a scaled, repetitive process that creates cost and resource savings. The process and the evolution is described by Brian Kunec, president of the Las Vegas division of KB Home, in this short video.
The benefits of this process don’t stop at only reducing the schedule by a minimum of seven days. The controlled environment of the factory offers the opportunity to create a finished product with greater precision and accuracy than a conventionally built home. In addition, because the finished pieces were brought in, the site waste was negligible, versus that of a typical stick-built house.
“I believe this process needs tremendous scale and repetition to drive these increased efficiencies,” says Kunec. “This could be accomplished after a month or so of building the same plans with the same crews. Time is money, so the speed of the assembly will drive down a lot of costs, which could allow the home builder to offer homes at a better price.”
With affordability as a major national discussion, reducing home prices will provide a very healthy competitive advantage. KB Home has hundreds of additional lots in Inspirada, so Kunec figures the company could leverage that volume by moving to on-site manufacturing. Moving on-site could provide additional cost savings that would play into KB Home’s mission to provide more attainable product solutions for its home buyers.
“I have seen everything from framing crews building the components on a few lots and then walking the components to the next lot to assemble, to building a permanent facility on site to manufacture those components that could be quickly sent to the lot,” says Kunec. “I believe both of these approaches could work depending on scale.”
As this technology continues to evolve, builders will be receiving product from manufacturing facilities that may be hundreds of miles away from the actual home site. Builders will need to be learning how to work with manufacturing facilities instead of focusing on managing on-site crews. The manufacturing “just in time” mentality for delivery along with the careful design staging equate to a major culture shift for builders. The manufacturer will need to have concrete plans that are not susceptible to change, so that the manufacturing process goes smoothly.
The “just in time” mentality can be a huge win for the builder, especially when supported by training for the crews. Making the transition to off site is not easy when crews can feel threatened by the perception of less work. However, the faster process can mean more homes, resulting in an equal amount of work and more homes (and more affordable homes) to meet current demand.
“We are literally at the beginning stages of this as an idea of process innovation for volume home building,” said Kunec. “We will start learning the technology, adopting to it and then identifying the ways to improve it. There is so much potential here, it’s really exciting.”
Where Tomorrow Lives may be built nearly entirely by machines, and that will mean higher quality product in less time. Watch for more of what’s happening with the BUILDER KB Home ProjeKt online at www.builderonline.com/kbhomeprojekt.