Published: January 1, 2023

How Detailing Drives PreFabrication



The ability to accurately spool and prefabricate Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection (MEP/F) building systems means projects can be completed faster, with higher precision, and at lower costs. But prefabrication doesn’t happen in a bubble. 

For systems to be successfully spooled and prefabricated, you must first have an expert detailing team designing your shop drawings and spool sheets. When your prefabrication shop works from precise, exact documentation, you reap all the benefits of a project that is completed on schedule and on budget.


Why Detailing is Key to a Successful Prefab

Prefabrication Requires Precision 

A prefabrication shop is a well-oiled machine. Each person performs their role with a high degree of precision and accuracy based on the information they receive. But how does the shop know what to prefab?

Who Creates the Shop Drawings? 

During the planning stage, the engineer develops the design drawings. From these, the overall scope, purpose, and footprint are communicated to stakeholders, the architect, the general contractor, and sub-contractors. However, these drawings represent “what” the project will be, not “how” the project will be constructed. The “how” is created by the detailing team and it’s the “how” that drives successful prefabrication. 

Detailing is the Pathway to Accurate Prefabrication

When shop drawings and spool sheets are inaccurately detailed, the materials being prefabricated won’t meet installation requirements. Simply put, “The fab won’t fit.” Dimensional errors, missing or incorrect hangers/sleeves, incorrect materials, and poor design leave you with prefab that won’t fit once it’s been delivered to the site. When this occurs, the sections have to be either adjusted on-site, or re-detailed, re-fabricated, and re-delivered, adding huge costs and labor hours to your budget and delaying your project schedule. Not to mention the added safety risk with double handling material. 

By working with field-experienced detailing experts, you can ensure that your shop drawings and spool sheets are correct the first time, keeping your project on schedule and on budget with prefabricated materials that fit perfectly every time. 



Set it and forget it! Plumbing carrier prefab.

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Benefits of Smooth Prefabrication

Smooth prefabrication provides huge benefits to a project. In a perfect world, as much of the MEP/F systems as possible are prefabricated, followed by a seamless installation. Accurate shop drawings are the key to making this a reality. When your shop drawings lead to successful prefabrication, you make up for the increased detailing costs in a number of ways. 

Reduced Labor Hours

Shop labor goes further than field labor. The working conditions, controlled environment, specifically designed stations, and expertise of the tradespeople in the shop mean that shop fabrication provides faster, more accurate, and safer production than building on-site. By front-loading your labor with a focus on prefabricating as much of the MEP/F systems as possible, you reduce the labor it takes to complete your scope of work. 

The installation also requires fewer labor hours when your materials have been accurately prefabricated. The act of fitting in ready-to-go components as opposed to fabricating pieces as needed means systems can be installed in a fraction of the time, allowing you to spread your labor pool over more projects and reduce labor costs.

Accurate Scheduling

Prefabrication shops have less unpredictable elements than fieldwork. The controlled environment and assembly line structure of a prefab shop means schedules are easier to create and maintain. Materials can be fabricated, stored, and delivered as required so the field crew gets the right materials when they need them and as areas are released for installation. 

On-site installation also follows a more predictable schedule with prefabricated materials. The spools being installed next can be part of a just-in-time delivery method. Spools can be delivered and brought to the area they are being installed where the installation can commence immediately. This means tradespeople aren’t working around a material laydown area or having to go get the material they need from the laydown. Which may be on the other side of the project site. Field labor can focus strictly on installing the spools provided without having to search for fittings or create material lists to get that last bit done. What do they say? The last 10% takes 30% of your time. 

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Safety is critical to everyone onsite. Reduce material handling by doing prefabrication.

Lower Safety Risk

Construction always comes with safety risks, no matter how stringent a job site is. Shop fabrication removes a lot of the risk associated with construction by having work completed in a controlled, structured environment.

The installation also becomes safer when the field crew can focus on working with a specific set of materials in a designated area. Not adjusting on the fly or needing to carry materials to different areas reduces the risk of job site injury for all team members. 

Consistent Quality 

When fabricated in a shop, all the spool segments with the same dimensions are created at the same time using the same jigs, the same workspace setup, and by the same tradesperson. That level of consistency cannot be replicated in the field. 

This precision ensures that highly sophisticated systems, such as medical gas and process piping, meet the exacting standards required and there’s no second-guessing the fit or quality of any section of the system. Not to mention many process systems have to be fabricated in a sterile cleanroom environment which is a lot harder to maintain onsite. It's easier to orbital weld a few joints connecting spools than it is to weld all the joints of a process system onsite. The same can be said for Med-gas systems in a hospital. 

Controlled Environment

Many advanced technology projects require process piping systems that have been fabricated in a clean room environment. Systems for hospitals or manufacturing facilities like semiconductor chip plants cannot have the spooling done in the field and expect the same results as in the fab shop.

When working on projects such as these, prefabrication is the best option. And if spools have been incorrectly fabricated, they can’t be adjusted onsite. They must be re-detailed and re-fabricated off-site at huge additional costs. 

Ever had a pile of this at the end of your project? Why?

No alt text provided for this imageLess Waste

Properly detailed spool sheets not only let you know exactly how much material you need before construction begins, but they also aid in the procurement of materials. Saving hours in sourcing and procuring materials accelerates schedules and reduces labor costs. 

When systems are accurately detailed, it also allows you to optimize material nesting to ensure you’re using your materials in the most efficient way. Prefabrication shops do their best to maximize the use of materials, but with highly detailed models, nesting software can be used to ensure you’re getting the most efficient use out of your resources. For the more efficient contractors, the days of throwing away crates of short pieces of pipe at the end of a project are behind them.

TigerStop's TigerRack positioner is one tool commonly used in prefabrication

No alt text provided for this imageFor example, using TigerStop's TigerRack positioner can maximize the number of cut pieces in each length of pipe.

How ICON-BIM Can Ensure Smooth Prefabrication for Your Next Project

Purposeful, precision detailing is at the heart of any prefabricated project. When your detailers understand exactly what information your prefab shop needs, they can produce shop drawings and spool sheets that fit seamlessly into your workflow and keep things on schedule. 

At ICON-BIM, our experienced detailers work with your in-house detailing team and prefab shop to learn about your processes and methods. We mimic your existing deliverables so there are never any misunderstandings or delays in getting work completed in the field. 

All our detailers are journeyman tradespeople with a 5-year apprenticeship so we have a thorough understanding of what goes into building models and shop drawings that are accurate, constructible, and code-compliant. 

Don’t take a risk on your next prefabricated project. Work with a team that will ensure smooth prefabrication and installation every time to keep your project on schedule and on budget. To learn more about how ICON-BIM can support your next project, have a look at our services or get in touch for a free estimate.

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