In the business of light-gauge steel framing prefabrication, there are many clear benefits involved in setting up your own rollforming lines for stud, track and ancillary component fabrication. Benefits include drastically higher quality, direct CAD system interaction, standard and custom features, and complete control of manufacturing operations.
Higher quality, direct CAD system interaction, standard and custom features
One of the most significant benefits to the prefabrication manufacturer is the ability to efficiently produce highly accurate light-gauge steel (LGS) framing components. The prefabrication industries demand levels of accuracy in both profile dimensions and cut length that traditional commercial suppliers simply cannot meet.
Under-bent flanges, uneven returns and oversized webs are all disastrous for the prefabrication environment. The worst circumstance of all are uneven cut lengths in the load-bearing wall panel assembly. Whether the result of commercial supply tolerance problems or an employee’s ability to use a saw, uneven cut lengths represent a major problem for prefabrication. Rollforming equipment designed specifically for the prefabrication environment can maintain a cut-length tolerance of +/- 0.03 inches—well within the tolerance required to successfully assemble parts in a high-precision environment.
In addition, track can be tailored to meet the assembly needs. Specific control over flange angel (toed in or square) and flange depth are easily dealt with when rollforming your own components.
CAD System Interaction
Fabrication instructions that could include profile, quantity, length and feature positions can be electronically transferred directly from the building design software to the rollforming equipment. The need to sift through schedules, cut lists and layout instructions is no longer required. In the case of light commercial projects, where literally thousands of individual components must be accounted for, there are literally no questions related to the details of what must be fabricated.
Another primary benefits of direct CAD integration: virtually no waste. Scrap rates among prefabricators who rollform their own components can be as low as 2%. The need for excess component inventory or the need to deal with dumpsters full of tail cuts simply does not exist for the manufacturer who embraces the rollforming process in-house.
Standard and Custom Features
When rollforming your own components, punched features like service holes can be positioned based on structural and assembly needs rather than standard commercial hole patterns. The prefabrication builder is no longer limited to what is or is not offered in bulk supply components. Mid-span bridging, conduit runs, wiring access—there are no restrictions.
Also, custom/proprietary features like inter-fitting dimples, pre-punched tabs, bolt hole patterns, slot patterns, and various sizes of round holes in both the flanges and webs are seamlessly integrated into your own components based on the framing techniques in play. There is virtually no limit to the conveniences and simplifications that can be added to prefabricated assemblies by way of pre-punched features. In addition, the CAD systems manage the required instructions related to these features as well. There are no additional programming requirements necessary to fully employ BIM principles when rollforming your own parts. A massive benefit is the near-elimination of labor costs associated with adding features after the fact.
Flexibility and Control
Owning and operating your own rollforming equipment allows for a great deal of flexibility in the types of work that can be performed. The previously stated benefits apply to work associated with both modular and prefabrication. For the modular manufacturer and the prefab shop, the advantages are obvious. A second category is the framing subcontractor who wants to make their own components for either prefabrication or field framing.
Specialty subcontractors are often hampered by the nature of the supply chain in the areas where they are working. May rural and semi-remote areas are drastically underserved by the institutionalized framing component suppliers. Short notice and limited quantities can seriously impact subcontractors who rely on third-party suppliers for parts.
A third category is stick supply. In this case, target clients might include framing subcontractors, prefabrication shops and modular builders. Each and every circumstance may be addressed when you operate your own machines. The ability to tackle boutique runs—short quantities, a variety of cut lengths, and highly specific feature positioning—sets this kind of organization apart from the bulk component suppliers.
It may be time to explore how owning your own rollforming machinery can benefit your business and its bottom line today!
Patrick Flood is the executive vice president at Knudson Manufacturing Inc. in Broomfield, Colo. To learn more, call (303) 469-2101 or visit www.knudsonmfg.com.