Berkeley Modular

launched an innovative offsite manufacturing process based on the latest digital technologies

Berkeley Modular specialises in the production of volumetric modular housing solutions for the Berkeley Group. Their goal is to deliver modular-manufactured homes of exceptional quality which outperform the traditional building in many aspects. For production purposes, Berkeley Modular has secured 160,000 sq. ft site and a modern modular factory situated in Gravesend, England.

‘We want to be able to specify products that ensure the comfort of those living in the homes we manufacture and also meet our own sustainability and build-quality requirements. Thought the implementation of a digital data strategy supported by Cobuilder, we transitioned to managing structured and standardised product data. Collecting data in a digital format from our supply chain will make it easy for us to control and continuously improve the quality and longevity of the homes we build.’

Graham Cleland, Managing Director, Berkeley Modular Ltd
Cobuilder and Berkeley Modular

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Business Need

To modernise and boost productivity, Berkeley Modular recognised the need to implement highly efficient and digitally-enabled production processes in their factory. To achieve this, Berkeley Modular initiated a project, based on the latest technological advancements. As part of the project, the collection and structuring of product information is a major prerequisite to achieve a streamlined data flow and ensure a seamless exchange of information between internal and external systems.

Challenges

Berkeley Modular was among the first to launch such an innovative, large-scale project. It involved multiple internal and external software systems, consulting companies and suppliers of materials.

Aligning several software platforms and ensuring collaboration with different external suppliers is not an easy endeavor. In addition, the differences in semantics, i.e. the language used for the same ‘construction object’, pose a serious hurdle when structuring data in a single digital format.

Another challenge is the need for rigorous data governance. Berkeley Modular needs to ensure constant control over the quality of their data in order to have complete and accurate digital records.

Solution

To leverage the potential of the latest technologies and boost the efficiency of modular construction, Berkeley Modular entered into a strategic partnership with Cobuilder.

The two companies are working together on a project that will enable Berkeley Modular to capture at source product data and documentation requirements for the materials, components and equipment to be incorporated into Berkeley’s volumetric modular solution.

Cobuilder initiated the project by focusing on the core of the problem. Proper structuring, organizing and streamlining of data is key for any digital initiative.

Through Cobuilder’s digital platform Berkeley Modular implemented future-proof data structures, called Data Templates. These structures are based on the latest international and European industry standards and turn product information into machine-readable data that can flow freely between multiple software systems and devices. This ensures smooth collaboration across the supply chain and allows for the data to be easily collected and structured from a myriad of sources.

Step by step implementation

The implementation of Cobuilder’s solution follows these steps:

  • Berkeley Modular created a master project in Cobuilder`s platform. This will allow them to collect all the data about materials, parts and components used during the manufacturing of Berkeley`s assembled modules.

  • Experts from Berkeley Modular will set consistent data requirements for the type of data that they need to collect about the different ‘construction objects’, so that their suppliers can provide the required information within the software platform.

  • Moving forward, Berkeley Modular will invite their suppliers to register in the platform. Each supplier will gather the data from the various sources where it is stored – brochures, catalogues, or various PDFs and excel files, and enter it into the system via Cobuilder’s goBIM software.

  • This will allow Berkeley Modular to create a repository using Cobuilder`s Collaborate that will hold all the data that they need in a digital format.

  • The data will be then fed into Berkeley Modular’s digital manufacturing process through API, which will allow the data to be consumed downstream.

  • This way the product data will be integrated across Berkeley`s Modular existing databases and software, including ERP systems (Oracle), and in the Autodesk tools Revit, BIM 360, Inventor, Vault and others.

For such an innovative pilot project ‘learning on the way’ is an essential part of the process. During the implementation progress, we encountered a few challenges that our experts are currently working to solve. ‘Data filtering’ is among those obstacles – once the suppliers provide their entire list of properties, the systems end up with much more data than it is needed. Therefore, our experts are developing new functionality to filter by a requirement in the API. Thus, it will prevent the return of unnecessary data in the systems downstream. Another challenge is related to the alignment of properties’ ordering and naming so that those in the Data Templates match with the ones inside the system. Apart from that, our experts are solving an issue with the data validation at point of entry (data type validation), which will prevent erroneous values to enter the downstream process. Lastly, our team is working on a solution that will help Berkeley Modular to ensure that there is a robust process for control of change such that manufacturer cannot simply amend or update product data without Berkeley Modular being able to track such changes, and potentially approve before the same is implemented.

Results

The described software solution is only a part of Berkeley Modular’s large-scale project. However, going through these steps will ensure the ‘digitisation’ of the product data. Berkeley will then be able to operate with consistent digital information to help them build a range of volumetric modular housing products.

Digitised and well-structured data enables the automation of manual work. This will save time and labour costs and improve the overall efficiency of the production process. Apart from that, it will help Berkeley Modular to meet their own sustainability and build-quality requirements.

By implementing Cobuilder`s solution, Berkeley Modular will achieve a new level of collaboration across their supply chain and get closer to their major goal – to revolutionise the process of offsite manufacturing.