Transforming Construction: A Journey Towards Industrialization

Two men working on conduit.

Dave Crumrine | February 2, 2024

Each industry is ever-evolving, from the revolutionary days of Henry Ford’s manufacturing change to the shift from in-store retail to e-commerce, a pervasive trend towards becoming more process-driven has taken root. However, it seems the construction industry hasn’t quite caught on. With our decades of construction experience at Interstates, we’ve been making intentional effort to industrialize and standardize our work. Dave Crumrine, President at Interstates, joined the podcast Chapin’s Commute to share his insights and experience on why it’s imperative to embrace a more process-driven approach in this complex, fragmented industry.

The Methodology of Industrialization

At its core, industrialized construction is a methodology that takes common tasks or processes and improves them leveraging tools like standardization and automation. In the pursuit of improving efficiency, finding skilled workers, enhancing safety records, and innovating processes to add more value, the construction sector stands to gain a lot in this transformation.

As we started this journey towards more standardized processes in construction, we began with prefabrication. Typically, these are highly customized based on the project's needs. Instead, we’re eliminating the variability of ad hoc, project-specific approaches and standardizing them into singular products. This has saved us time and money by getting to the job site faster and assembling them quicker and more simply for our field team. Simplification is the goal.

Harmony in Agile and Industrialized Construction

While the terms industrialization and agile are not one and the same, they do tie together. Crumrine explains that an agile process is instrumental in bringing standardized products to fruition, “We have work packages that are well defined. But you respond to the environment by bringing the right work package forward at the right time and using the right methodology to store and mobilize materials on-site.” These standard products bring a more universal "way” to our tradespeople, giving them clearer and easier applications.... driving up project success.

Another part of agile is constant and clear communication. In an industry where projects and circumstances rapidly change, workers are required to adapt quickly with it, which can be stressful and tiring. However, with standards in place and a system that workers can more easily and simply follow, then the chaos is more controlled. Crumrine adds that standardizing processes and procedures is fundamental in reducing chaos, therefore bringing more confidence and precision in the project.

Empowering Through Standards

The journey towards implementing standards has not been without its share of challenges. Team members don’t want to feel they’re becoming a robot. However, Crumrine argues that standards can make our lives easier and allow us to focus on bigger, more impactful tasks. In our day-to-day lives, we put our keys in the same place each day, so we don’t spend extra time looking for them. Having standards allows people to put more energy into things that matter, improving their overall satisfaction, and giving more certainty to the client for their project.

While significant strides have been made in steering industries towards a more process-driven paradigm, the path forward is an ongoing journey. Embracing this transformative approach requires a commitment to continual learning and always looking for a better way. It also requires giving up some historical “ways” craft construction has been done. As companies champion this approach, it creates an industry filled with creativity, adaptability, and efficiency.

Listen to the full podcast here.