They were committed to achieving the impossible …
When Zekelman Industries announced the launch of their Z Modular facility in Arizona in 2019, they had a goal that few would be able to reach successfully. They would deliver steel-framed volumetric modular building units up to 50% faster, without cost overruns, built to 1/16” tolerance. In a nutshell, their goal was to deliver the golden trifecta to the construction industry: fast, affordable and very, very good. They had most of the ingredients they needed to get it done.
The Arizona facility would be Z Mod’s third, so they’d been down this road before. They would be producing 90% of the raw materials needed for construction, including the steel (Zekelman’s specialty), so timelines were mostly under their control. And they had a knowledgeable team in place. The plan was to eventually rely on automation to deliver the speed they needed to take them over the top.
But Matt Miller, Z Mod’s Chandler Plant Manager, wanted to establish that speed even before the automation came online. “Not only that,” says Miller, “but there were also the usual factors that are just a part of modular construction, including the need to fixture for an infinite number of size variations.” For all that, in Miller’s mind there was only one solution.
Z Modular turns to Bluco modular
When Zekelman Industries announced the launch of their Z Modular facility in Arizona in 2019, they had a goal that few would be able to reach successfully. Being a modular company themselves, a modular fixturing solution made perfect sense to Z Mod. They knew that for high mix, low volume production, there was simply no better choice.
“I knew we needed a modular system because we build so many different assemblies with different dimensions,” says Miller. “We needed something that was flexible, so we could move the tooling around quickly and easily.” He also needed someone with experience to nail what he knew would be a very specialized solution.
Design experience makes the difference
Miller reached out to Bluco Senior Application Engineer, Todd Bennett, who told Miller something he was hoping to hear: Bluco had done this before. In fact, Bluco’s 30+ years of modular fixturing experience makes “we’ve done this before” a common theme no matter what the industry.
In the case of modular construction, Bluco had fixtured not only Z Mod’s Texas plant, but another modular construction facility located near Bluco in Naperville, Illinois. Miller made a visit to Bluco’s on-site Validation Center and to the modular construction facility nearby, where he was able to see similar solutions in action. “Seeing what Bluco had already done helped me visualize what was possible. From there, I started wondering how Bluco could take it to the next level,” says Miller.
A design curveball
With a taste of what could be accomplished using modular fixturing, Miller started assembling a wish list. While he originally wanted one fixture for roof assemblies, and another for floor assemblies, he challenged Bluco to take that idea and Make it Better.
“He asked us if we could design a single fixture that would hold both assemblies at the same time,” says Bennett. Working alongside Miller and his production team, the design started to take shape.