Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 - AE Smith

Did you know AE Smith has been implementing prefabricated solutions on a project-by-project basis since 1996? But it’s only in recent years that the financial benefits of offsite manufacturing have become more widely regarded by the Australian construction industry.

AE Smith has a long history of prefabrication experience. In 1996 on the Woodford Correctional Centre project, AE Smith foreshadowed a new and unique installation method where the services trades undertook the installation of their works inside roof trusses while these trusses were still on the ground! (See pics attached.) As one of the Australian construction industry’s first parlays into prefabrication, the benefits of rapid installation under increased safety conditions was clear.

Consistent with AE Smith’s ethos to help customers deliver better ROI and ensure high safety and quality standards, AE Smith has continued to grow its prefabrication expertise. More recently, AE Smith installed prefabricated skids on the King George Central project reducing installation time from weeks to days. On the Queensland Children’s Hospital project, significant sections of the plant room was prefabricated and pre-commissioned. This  approach resulted in significant time savings compared to traditional onsite commissioning processes.

Harnessing knowledge and embedding processes

AE Smith have consolidated their experience in offsite manufacturing with the addition of a Prefabrication & Modularisation Coordinator, Colin Jones. Colin has 10 years of experience in the established “DfMA” (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) of prefabricated MEP (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) modules gained by working in the UK construction industry.

“I was impressed with AE Smith’s reputation for executing prefabricated solutions far before the broader Australian market realised the benefits,” said Colin.

Steve Jackson, National General Manager Construction said, “We already have the experience and capability to deliver a range of prefabrication in response to specific customer objectives and site requirements. Colin’s appointment helps ensure AE Smith’s extensive knowledge is consistently shared across the business, and with customers. Our prefabrication and BIM processes will ensure continual improvement - moving the industry forward and keeping AE Smith in front.”

The multidisciplinary teams inside AE Smith continues to integrate prefabrication processes across the business; some stages of which include estimation, BIM, drafting, procurement, manufacture, commissioning and installation of services.

Learnings from the auto industry improve construction efficiency

Colin reflects on his experience in the UK where he worked for market leaders Laing O’Rourke and Crown House. Lessons learned from assembly operations at automotive companies including “lean manufacturing” and “lean construction” completely changed the way these companies delivered projects.

“Imagine buying a new car from Toyota and then having four engineers turn up at your house to assemble it piece-by-piece in your garage! It sounds ridiculous. But in many ways, that’s exactly how a lot of the Australian construction industry thinks right now. Yes, every building is unique. But each building also has many common parts that can be built using the same production line techniques used in automotive manufacture. Our goal is to find AE Smith customers even greater efficiencies – to save time and ultimately increase their return on investment,” said Colin.

Involvement early in the building strategy delivers the greatest benefits

“The earlier AE Smith is involved in the project, the more value offsite manufacturing can deliver to our clients. Benefits include accelerated construction times, improved productivity, significant abatement of reworks, and reduction in onsite health and safety risks,” said Steve.

“AE Smith have invested and continue to invest heavily in prefabrication techniques and technologies that help our customers compress the critical path of their project.”

“The evidence is clear. The traditional construction approach takes much, much longer. Financial return can be a powerful motivator to customer and contractor alike. Using prefab, customers can be more confident they’ll get a return on their investment over a shorter period of time. For some, the time AE Smith helps save in the critical path could be the difference between a building being delivered on time or the client benefiting from early occupancy,” concluded Steve.



[High resolution images avaliable on request.]


Image caption: One of several giant three tonne prefabricated fan modules manoeuvred into place by crane at the Queensland Children's Hospital (QCH) in Brisbane this September.

Image caption: In 1996, AE Smith instigated prefabrication to deliver mechanical services during the construction of the Woodford Correctional Centre 100km north of Brisbane.

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AE Smith

AE Smith is a BRW Top 500 Private Company with a team of more than 700 people in 9 offices throughout Australia. AE Smith delivers practical solutions in air conditioning, building services and energy efficiency. Established in 1898, AE Smith remains proudly 100 per cent Australian owned and operated.
Raymond Lee
P: 03 9271 1999
M: 0411 698 342


Prefabrication, Modularisation, Offsite Manufacture, DfMA, Design for Manufacture & Assembly, BIM, Mechanical Services, Prefab




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