Regular readers will recall that late last year I had an unfortunate encounter with a TV. But today for the first time in a long time I actually sat on the couch and turned it on, and after thirty seconds of mindless surfing I came across a show on the National Geographic channel called Impossible Moves: Towns. From the description,
Two teams of movers face the ultimate challenge: move two entire towns of homes. Follow a team of engineers in Canada as they attempt to build and move 30 giant and luxurious floating mansions 150 miles through rough seas. Then, in Denver, follow a team of leading skyscraper designers as they create the worlds first full-size house factory and race against the clock to build, move and assemble a town of more than 200 homes.
Although the "moving" part was interesting, the "building" was even more so. In both cases a factory was used to build the custom homes, one at a time, which are then moved to the final site.
In the first example, floating homes are built and hauled 200 miles to create Westbay Marine Village on Vancouver Island. These are real, custom, over 2,000 square foot homes weighing about 85 tons. A tug hauls them from the factory, where they are sometimes lifted into place by a monster crane. The most interesting part of this case is how some contingencies were not planned for… such as protruding balconies almost getting crushed by crane lift cables. Deadlines created a rush, which created poor planning. But in the end everyone is happy.
The second example decribes how Cohen Brothers Homes builds a home factory near the development in Colorado, then cranks out homes ready for occupancy, custom and one at a time, every 20 days. The homes are built on a steel frame that is then moved over the final foundation. Cohen Brothers has this process down to a science, and in fact they have two patents on their methods. Their website has numerous videos showing their home building system and how their factory works.
The benefits are exactly what one piece flow lean manufacturing methods create: faster cycle times, increased customization, higher quality, and lower costs. And just as with other lean manufacturers their supply chain is critical: an unexpected snowstorm made it impossible to move a completed home out of the factory, thereby causing all work on the next home to stop. A quick glance at the photo of their factory on the right seems to indicate that a little 5S work is in order.
We’ve talked about how Toyota is in the home-building process, and our friendly fellow blogger Mike of the Lean Builder blog also provides an interesting insight into this industry. I’d encourage you to check National Geographic’s schedule to see when the Impossible Moves: Towns show will re-air.