New hub to build precast parts with less manpower

The SEF SpaceHub, which opened yesterday, is two to three times more productive than open precast yards. It will be the first to have fully integrated modelling, production and delivery of precast components.
The SEF SpaceHub, which opened yesterday, is two to three times more productive than open precast yards. It will be the first to have fully integrated modelling, production and delivery of precast components.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
The SEF SpaceHub, which opened yesterday, is two to three times more productive than open precast yards. It will be the first to have fully integrated modelling, production and delivery of precast components.
Mr Raymond Chan, project director of SEF SpaceHub

Kaki Bukit facility boasts equipment that can do the work with minimal manual labour

A factory that will reduce the amount of manpower needed to build precast components for the construction industry opened yesterday.

Located in Kaki Bukit, the five-storey building houses equipment and systems that can read data, transport moulds and distribute concrete evenly with minimal manual labour.

This will cut the number of workers needed by up to 70 per cent, said Mr Raymond Chan, project director of the building, at an event to mark its official opening.

Mr Chan's company, SEF Group, won the first land tender by the Building and Construction Authority for the development of an Integrated Construction and Prefabrication Hub (ICPH) in 2013. The tender was put out to raise production capacity to meet the demand for precast components.

COST SAVINGS

With the manpower crunch and higher manpower costs now, this will lower operating costs.

MR RAYMOND CHAN, project director of SEF SpaceHub, on how a reliable supply of precast components will drive down operating costs for construction firms

The hub, known as the SEF SpaceHub, is two to three times more productive than open precast yards, as work can go on non-stop, and several processes can be carried out simultaneously. It will be the first to have fully integrated modelling, production and delivery of precast components.

Mr Chan believes that having a reliable supply of precast components - such as walls, beams and staircases - in large capacities will drive down the operating costs for construction firms.

"With the manpower crunch and higher manpower costs now, this will lower operating costs," added Mr Chan.

The 26,000 sq m facility - the size of about four football fields - is the opposite of a traditional open precast yard which would be open, noisy and labour intensive.

SEF SpaceHub also has a separate storage facility.

The highly mechanised and automated facility was built at a cost of more than $100 million and has a 30-year lease.

Mr Chan said that production has already commenced for five projects - a food hub, three nursing homes and a dormitory for his company's workers.

He is also confident that his company can secure its first Housing Board project to demonstrate the facility's capabilities.

Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry as well as National Development, and guest-of-honour at the event, said that the level of prefabrication for building structural systems and wall systems has increased. Speaking to about 100 guests, he said site productivity has improved at an average of 1.4 per cent over the past four years, with a 2 per cent improvement last year.

He added that the Building and Construction Authority has launched three more land tenders for the development of ICPHs.

"We aim to have about 10 ICPHs operational by 2020," he said.

"Together with other precast yards in the region, we are confident of meeting the industry's demand in the years ahead."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'New hub to build precast parts with less manpower'. Print Edition | Subscribe