The Lee Company fabrication shop takes Building Information Modeling (BIM) design to the next level. By using BIM and the most innovative construction technology, such as 3D scanners and coil lines, Lee Company produces custom-designed materials that improve building quality, productivity, and safety.
For example, Lee Company’s investment in a Vicon coil line allows the team to produce ductwork five times faster than doing it by hand. In sheer numbers, the manufacturing shop went from producing 700,000 pounds of sheet metal per year to fabricating more than 2 million pounds.
“Boosting our production capacity is just one benefit of the coil line,” says David Conley, Lee Company’s director of manufacturing. “Having the ability to quickly produce high-quality ductwork in-house also gives us more control over the way the ductwork is loaded, shipped, and scheduled onsite. We know the value of that, based on our logistics success with kitting and carting pipe, hangers, and modular fabrication.”
The 3D difference
When it comes to the value of technology, Conley also points to a nearly $5 million design/build project that Lee Company handled recently for a North Alabama manufacturing facility. With ceilings 60 feet high, the typical route for piping the facility would have been very expensive. Lee Company reviewed designs, budgets, and options, and then suggested prefabricating racks to hold all the mechanical and plumbing.
After receiving client approval, Lee Company used a 3D scanner to guide the initial work. The technology paid off immediately: The structural engineer’s measurements on columns were off by about 6-8 inches – and there was no room for that kind of error. With accurate info in hand, the fab shop was able to quickly prefabricate the pipe racks – Lee Company installed roughly 3,000 feet of pipe in the first week.
It takes more than technology
While the equipment employed and results delivered are impressive, Conley says it’s important to remember the driving force behind the fab shop’s success: Lee Company’s corporate culture and the people who build careers here.
“Making a strategic investment in equipment like the coil line helps us control costs while giving customers the assurance of improved timing and scheduling,” Conley says. “Most importantly, the coil line supports the Lee Company mission: As we grow and thrive, our employees grow and thrive.”
Conley says the “future leaders of fabrication” at Lee Company comprise a diverse, dedicated team.
“There are no silos here; our team is fully integrated throughout the process – from design/build to driving the kits to the job site. That helps customers shave time off the construction timetable, and improve speed to market.
“What’s happening here marks a real culture shift for the construction industry,” Conley says, “and I’m amazed at how fast the shift is occurring. We’re at the forefront of change, optimizing the way we develop talent and use technology.”
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