How Lean leads the way for prefabrication: Insights from 2018 LCI Congress speaker Amy Marks

Because her presentation was such a hit at last year’s event, Amy Marks, CEO of XSite Modular, agreed to answer a few questions about her upcoming presentation at 2018 LCI Congress.

Last year, Amy covered the challenges and best practices for implementing prefabrication and how they both align and differ from Lean processes. This year, she will pick up where she left off with another presentation titled “Assess your Company’s Prefab Readiness to Ensure Success – Even for Lean Organizations Implementing Prefab is Challenging, Is Your Company Ready?” Make your plans today to hear Amy’s insights about prefab readiness on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 9:30 a.m. at the 20th Annual LCI Congress.

LCI: How does Lean lead the way for prefabrication?
Amy Marks (AM): Prefabrication or prefab is another part of Lean methodology, like the Last Planner® System (LPS) or A3 thinking, that is gaining momentum because it allows us to collaborate holistically. Prefab brings attention to how we can build better buildings and increase productivity in a safer environment. If I’m working with a project team that already has a Lean culture established, it is much easier to implement prefab optimization processes than it is with an organization that is not Lean.

LCI: How did you get into prefab?
AM: I made the transition from conventional construction to the modular construction world when I was working for a family-owned construction business that a manufacturing company wanted to purchase. I suggested they instead buy a modular company to make the shift easier, and they asked me to join their team for the acquisition process. I later became the president.

LCI: Where do you see prefab in 2028, and how will it impact the design and construction industry?
AM: In ten years, you’re going to see more and more adopters of prefab. General contractors want to work with trades they are familiar with and that have knowledge and experience in prefab. To meet the needs impacted by prefab adoption, I think trade partners will become more like manufacturers. I also anticipate more governments investing in prefab. Singapore has invested heavily in prefab and construction productivity spending $450 million and the last 5-6 years of heavy resource investment. The country now has 33 large volumetric modular projects that are completed or in progress. Other countries like the U.K., China and Australia are also becoming more involved by enabling or requiring the use of prefab as they seek more collaborative practices.

LCI: How will this presentation equip attendees to lead change?
AM: This presentation will not be about whether or not it is possible to prefabricate things – it’s obvious it can be done through many examples of success. Last year, my presentation talked about processes that enable prefab. This year, my presentation will be about prefab readiness and why some organizations are more successful than others. Often, I find that the companies without learning cultures or aligned strategies are the ones that struggle. Other organizations can more efficiently see, learn, implement and optimize prefab.

Many people at conferences talk about the hard-fought success stories, but I think we have a lot more to learn from the failures. There are probably more failures within organizations due to their culture and circumstances on a day to day basis than successes right now, and if that were not the case, everyone would be doing prefab and other Lean processes. In my work, I notice a large knowledge and skills gap in our industry, especially around prefab. We have a lot of room for improvement.

LCI: What was your favorite part of speaking at LCI Congress in Anaheim, California last year?
AM: I loved seeing so many people interested in the topic! The presentation reached capacity last year in the room and people were listening through the doors. I loved talking to the Lean-driven audience. The Lean culture really allows participants to experiment and learn new things that will ultimately place their organization in a better position in the future as the prefab trend gains traction.