Managing Construction Parts – From Manufacturing to Construction


2014-2015 CIFE Seed Project

Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Principal Investigator(s): Martin Fisher, Calvin Kam, Ben Schwegler

Researcher(s): Helen Chen, Daniel Hall, Hang Li, Sijia Tao, Jinzhi Wang, Nanyu Zhao

This is a continue study of 2013-2014 CIFE Seed Project: Integrated Virtual Parts Library--- Parts List Definition


Engineering/Business Problem Scenario 

The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry’s productivity rate is lower than the manufacturing industry. One primary cause is the limitations in understanding of detailed input products. This lack of knowledge leads to unnecessary cost, loss of efficiency, and less optimized design in construction projects. By adopting the advanced practice found in manufacturing and aerospace industries, this Seed Proposal intend to further develop the concept of “Parts” as the basic unit in construction projects. Clear identifying and quantifying parts will help the AEC industry make better design and construction decisions. The Information related to Part indicates prefabrication opportunities during construction, supports a lean supply chain, and provides better evaluation on design iterations. A fully developed Part Ontology and its application will allow for a more efficient, collaborative, and data- driven decision-making process in the industry.


Project Proposal

The AEC industry has long been suffered from low productivity. Industry fragmentation is one of the major causes of this low labor productivity. In particular, the problems that limiting the overall productivity and performance are: High-level (General) project management cannot represent detail fieldwork; and no efficient way to integrate and optimize multidisciplinary design problems. Unlike in manufacturing industry where detail product part information is thoroughly studied, the industry fragmentation leads to separate information and lack of focus on basic building product, which then contributes a lot to the overall low productivity.

The manufacturing industry is able to gain high productivity by focusing on detailed, product level project information using successful concept such as Bill of Material (BOM), Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA) and LEAN. Construction industry is adopting some manufacturing mindset but only to the assembly level, therefore failed to make full use of these concepts. And the current AEC industry standards do not provide a construction part definition nor the means or method to organize information based on construction part. This research is inspired by these ideas: by clear defining a construction part, then collecting and organizing part related building information, AEC industry should be able to better integrate multidisciplinary knowledge, to evaluate its design and delivery method, to optimize its construction strategy, and finally to improve its productivity and project performance.


Utilize the concept of construction “Parts” to promote a common language between AEC industry participants. Develop Part Ontology for construction project to support lean management, and move towards a more efficient and collaborative construction industry.


• Understand construction Part and its quantification

• Manage Part data over Form, Function, and Behavior

• Integrate construction project across Product, Process, and Organization


• Provide metric for project performance management

• Manage data from BIM throughout the project life cycle

• Allow experience sharing, data comparing, and performance evaluation across projects


Key Results

The research team defined Part as: Any entity that requires an act of installation to become a component in the final building product. This definition specifically focuses on the construction activity, as it is the final “adding value” action in the project. The definition of a part creates a control variable that can be held constant for vertical compatibility (from start to finish of a project), horizontal coordination (across different AEC disciplines) and longitudinal comparison (across different types of projects). 

There are also three key criteria for the Part information, defined as: organized, integrated, and dynamic. It requires the part to provide comprehensive & accurate information for multi-discipline participants in an organized structure with flexibility. The system should also allow support the dynamic project design/construction changes and the next generation of BIM software.

To quantify parts, this research introduces discrete and non-discrete part categories: discrete parts are common parts with clear boundaries; while non-discrete parts are liquid or gel, small particles, or parts whose exact amount cannot be determined before installation. For discrete parts, one part is counted as one if it is installed to the building as one piece; for non-discrete parts, one non-discrete part is how much material the construction crew install or apply to the building in one complete working cycle. Using the working cycle approach to measure one part ensures that part counting is consistent and the total number of parts in a project can be reasonably assessed.

A methodology of counting the number of parts in a project before it is constructed is also developed. The major steps are: breakdown the building to similar systems or spaces, use drawings and BIM to identify building elements, make high and low estimates of the parts required to build each element, calculate the total number of parts by adding all the systems’ and space’s parts estimate ranges together.

As for ontology, each Part goes through concept development, design, procurement, transportation, pre-assembly, construction, operation, and maintenance during a project. In this process two types of Part information is recorded, statics type refers to the Part data at each major checkpoint and process type which is the record of intensive data/condition change during a period of time. In statics Part data, the current condition, past logs and planned future activities are captured; in process Part data, the objective, requirement, iteration, and result are stored. The two types of Part information keep updating and rotating as the project going, forming the cycle of Part information flow. At design stage, introduce specified parts and implied parts to represent design completed parts and known exist but not finish designed parts; at construction stage, introduce sequenced parts, ready-to-install parts, and installed parts to represent the parts change from scheduled, delivered on-site, and installed during a construction process.


Case Study

Using this operational definition, a comprehensive Part count estimate for a construction project was carried out. The Project case is seven-floor, 420-guest room hotel in the early construction stage, with a gross floor area of approximately 430,000 square feet. 60% Construction Documents BIMs, drawings of typical hotel sections, some specifications were used as major information source during the Part counting. The results show an estimated part range from 3.2 to 4.6 million, covering five main building systems: substructure, shell, interiors, services, and other. An office renovation case study is also discussed, where two rounds of counting are conducted based on drawings and BIMs with ongoing development. The result shows that the estimated part range tends to shrink as more design details determined. These case studies confirm the generality of the operational definition of a part and the part’s quantification rules.

A hospital project in is also studied. The scope of that study specifically focused on its 440 prefabricated bathrooms. The bathrooms were particularly designed for prefabrication and fast construction and detail data were collected from the project contractor. The results shows that with the help of prefabrication, the Part count for one bathroom could reduce from 4,000 to about 60. For a total of 440 bathrooms in that project, the Part count is cut from about 1.7 million to 25,000, which is a 98.5% reduction in total number of onsite Parts. The contractor estimated that the bathroom prefabrication could resulted in 7 months of schedule saving, 150,000 hours or work moved from onsite to off-site, and about 3% overall cost saving. It is clear that there is a lot benefit in promoting prefabrication and a relationship between Part number and cost and schedule saving could be generated.


Future Research

This research emphasizes the importance of parts and defines a construction part. To make the parts concept applicable to the industry, the team will now focus on identifying information related to part, part classifications, and part relationships. By creating a part ontology describing various part attributes and their relationships, future research intends to use the parts concepts in managing construction projects, optimizing design and construction, and improving project performance and productivity.

CIFE Seed - Managing Construction Parts.pptx1.85 MB
CIFE Seed - Managing Construction Parts.pdf1.22 MB

Last modified Fri, 21 Aug, 2015 at 20:16