This blog is Part1 of a two-part series on the Evolution of the Contractor.
Innovation is born out of necessity — and we see this firsthand in the construction industry.
Construction has experienced its fair share of obstacles over the years: stagnant efficiency gains, a shortage of skilled labor, and supply chain issues, for example. Then, the pandemic hit, which added yet another challenge to efficient construction.
The question many in the industry are now asking is: How do we keep productivity high while maintaining safe worksites and healthy workers?
In this post, I explore three innovative solutions electrical contractors can use to ensure safer, more efficient construction projects.
Three solutions for safe and efficient construction
Solution #1: Fast, accurate designs
Pulling permits, purchasing supplies, and finalizing the details: A lot of work happens before you even break ground on a construction site. This pre-construction phase is also a great time to ensure your electrical design is engineered accurately.
Design software such as LayoutFAST incorporates building information modeling (BIM) and electrical design so you can build out your plans quickly and easily, saving you time on the front-end. Plus, when you have up-to-date access to design data, drawings, specifications, and pricing, you reduce the risk of errors once your equipment arrives on-site. BIM designs can be updated in real-time throughout the approval process, ensuring that a consistent digital thread ties together design through construction.
Taking the time to get the design right on the front-end saves you down the road, not just in time and money, but also in health and safety. Fewer errors with clearance, code violations, and sizing miscalculations mean fewer people will be rushing to correct a design error on the jobsite.
Installing and testing your equipment eats up a lot of time, and usually involves gathering many people in one location. However, it’s an essential step, particularly when you purchase sophisticated electrical equipment. Keeping the worksite safer sometimes involves tackling commissioning steps off-site.
One way to save time, reduce personnel on-site, and still ensure quality and functionality before your electrical distribution equipment ships is through a virtual witness test. At Schneider Electric™, we call this electronic factory acceptance testing or “eFAT”. With this service, you engage in a remote, two-way communication with plant engineers to observe your equipment test and ensure quality. This can be done from your phone, tablet, or computer.
Another option, if you’re looking to simplify the commissioning and minimize on-site headcount, is to purchase products that come factory-wired, programmed, and pre-tested. One example of pre-commissioned equipment is an energy control center, a configurable power control center that integrates distributed energy resources for microgrid systems.
Solution #3: Explore prefabricated options
Similar to pre-commissioning, factory-assembled equipment — often called prefabricated or prefab equipment — also helps you deploy faster and optimizes your on-site time. With prefabricated solutions, there are fewer pieces of equipment to manage and assemble and less waste, so you don’t need as many people working on-site. Plus, you generally are only dealing with one part number, as opposed to many.
Prefabricated offers are particularly common in applications with repetitive equipment needs, such as data centers. For example, at Schneider Electric, we offer pre-engineered, factory-integrated, and pre-tested power modules for data centers that include power, cooling, rack, and management software. Each module is available in multiple sizes and configurations, depending on the specific application.
Square D™ prefabricated integrated power and control solutions (IPaCS), another prefab option commonly used for gas stations and restaurants, combines separate electrical distribution and controls equipment into one pre-assembled, ready-to-connect system. Each unit comes factory-wired and assembled, so you can get up and running faster.
Contractors also use LayoutFAST, the design software mentioned above, is also leveraged by contractors to model prefabricated equipment in 5D with precision and accuracy.
The demand for prefabricated solutions has risen steadily over the years. And now, as more worksites limit the number of on-site personnel, some contractors find that one of the easiest ways to complete projects on-time is by investing in these ready-to-connect systems.
Looking toward a digital future
Although the construction industry is facing increasing strain, the solutions outlined here will enable contractors to overcome these hurdles without compromising worker safety and efficiency. And, in the future, we can expect the industry to continue developing new technologies to solve ongoing worksite issues and bring more value to the end-user.
Now read Part 2 of this series, where I discuss how digitization helps contractors boost productivity and grow business.