On Wednesday, my colleagues and I from the Autodesk Corporate Strategy team took a tour of Factory_OS (factory off site). Factory_OS is located on Mare Island in Vallejo, CA. Factory_OS builds well-designed, tech-ready multifamily homes 40% faster and 20% less expensive than conventional housing. They do this by building the bulk of the home off-site, shipping it, and assembling it on-site. Factory_OS is a real-world example of the convergence of construction and manufacturing. Since this convergence is at the heart of Autodesk strategy, our team decided to see so for itself.
The Factory_OS site is a 256,000 sq ft warehouse where the volume units are created. This environmentally controlled space allows the construction team to make progress regardless of the weather. The warehouse is laid out like a factory floor where portions of the units are built at each station. The units are moved about the space, conveyor-belt-style, using compressors that have them float on a cushion of air. Tools and procedures have been optimized at each station to ensure safety, quality, and productivity. This is how Factory_OS builds homes 40% faster and 20% less expensive. A byproduct of their process is that they estimate that they generate 15% waste as compared to a traditional construction process.
Factory_OS has 20 management employees with 130 union workers. Being a union shop provides workers with an organizational structure, union benefits, and stability of employment. The unions recognize that the Factory_OS process is the future, and they want to get in on the ground floor. The union workers at Factory_OS are embracing the latest in construction technology (e.g., robot-assisted window installation) and using that as an opportunity to learn new skills and provide even more value to the construction process.
Autodesk has always been an automation company. Today, more than ever, that means helping our customers automate their design and make processes. We help them embrace the future of making, where they can do more (e.g., increasing efficiency, performance, quality), with less (e.g., less energy, fewer raw materials, shorter timeframes, less waste of human potential), and realize the opportunity for better (e.g., innovation, user experience, return on investment). Factory_OS is a construction company that is reaping the benefits associated with a manufacturing process so that they can do more with less and realize the power of better.
Volume construction is alive in the lab.