Six major trends are affecting the construction industry today. The first two, a projected growth of the modular building market share and a lingering construction labor shortage, suggest an immediate challenge for the modular building industry. The Modular Building Institute estimates that modular construction will grow from three percent of the market share of new construction to 5 percent by 2020.
While growth in general is a positive indicator, the increased demand for modular buildings coupled with the construction labor shortage strains both productivity and profitability in this industry. Three other trends also represent benefits that are propelling the growth of modular building: the condensing of a construction project schedule, cost saving, and maintaining quality control.
The sixth and final trend is recognition of the need for safer jobsites, and some argue this trend is the most important. The 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the construction industry as the leader in the number of worker casualties.
Air caster technology, however, indirectly and directly impacts all six of these trends. The technology offers easy-to-use equipment and has proven itself in many modular building venues. When addressing these challenges the industry faces, implementation of this tech may prove useful in stemming some of these issues.
So, what is air caster technology?
Air Caster Technology
- What: Very simply, air caster equipment uses a variety of air bearings to float heavy loads on a thin (.003 to .005 inches or .08 to .13mm) film of compressed air.
- Where: Air casters have been successfully used by companies such as Dynamic Homes, Commodore Homes, and Pine Grove Homes.
- How: In a modular building plant, building components can be assembled on top of air caster-supported platforms. As walls, doors, siding, floors, roofs, and other components are added to the structure, the growing edifice is glided along on the casters—“hovercrafts”—making the fight with friction a winning battle.
- Omnidirectional movement of partial or completed buildings — and even multi-use floors (i.e. apartments, offices, hotels, hospitals) — can be safely handled with a few workers depending on the size and weight of a piece. This forgoes the need for space-consuming permanent fixtures such as cranes, conveyors, rails, and so on. Without stopping a production assembly line, the building can be gently pushed and maneuvered off the line without interrupting flow.
Bucking General Building Industry Trends
The six aforementioned trends and challenges in the construction industry today are indirectly tackled by modern moving technology in a few vital ways:
- Demand increases: Air caster technology makes building modular structures more efficient, answering increased demand with modern solutions to moving large, bulky buildings and parts.
- Labor shortages: Air caster technology requires less training and licensing (i.e. forklifts) to implement. In addition, it takes fewer workers for the same output because of increased efficiencies.
- Construction schedule contraction: With increased efficiencies, time to the project site is reduced.
- Cost savings: Buying and installing permanent equipment, such as cranes, rails, and other bulky mechanisms is unnecessary.
- Quality control: Every aspect of building offsite is measurable. More control results in better quality. Air casters facilitate offsite building.
- Safer jobsites: With pre-made modular buildings, fewer workers need to be on the project site. Unsafe weather and construction site risks are reduced.
Challenges at a Modular Building Plant Addressed
Air caster transfer methods directly affect the following offsite-manufacturing issues:
- Facilities damage: With the ability for careful transporting, air caster-controlled building movements reduce facilities damage to floors, walls, and ceilings.
- Bottleneck: Flexibility of moving buildings around the line eliminates “first in, first out” (FIFO) rigidity and inefficiencies.
- Consistency and quality control: In contrast to an outdoor project locale, inside construction means everything is level, plumb, and measurable. Using air casters inside a modular building venue improves consistency and quality.
Poised for Growth
Competition in the construction industry is fierce. Historically, two out of these three customer demands — economy, speed, and quality — were adequate. In today’s world, everyone wants all three and then some. Using modern air caster technology in the modular building sector is one way to help meet the fast-moving, high demand expectations of the industry and its expected growth through 2020 and beyond.