Pitt Meadows Plumbing & Mechanical Systems (PMP) have been pioneering mechanical off-site fabrication in Canada since 2012, working on more and more complex large-scale projects from Hospitals and Law Courts to some of North America’s largest mixed-use residential projects.
The move to off-site fabrication was initiated by the partners at PMP looking at the construction industry’s lack of innovation over the last 25 years and the wide-spread adoption of Autodesk’s Revit software by the consultant teams in the British Columbia market.
This initial spark has led from a single BIM modeler and a 5,500 sqft facility to a full-time team of nine, working to enable fabrication at their 55,000 sqft fabrication shop in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. This shop leverages automated machinery to provide pipe cutting, end preparation, robotic cutting of complex fittings and robotic welding machines. These systems increase productivity, allow the work to be completed in a controlled environment, reducing the chance of human error, and has enabled 75% of the materials and 40% of the total man-hours to flow through the fabrication shop.
During the last 8 years, PMP has developed a fabrication tracking system from the ground up, leveraging various Revit plugins to produce fabrication orders, tracking these through the shop with a paper-based system.
The system functioned well, but as PMP grew, the administration side of producing and tracking each fabrication order was taking hours of work each day. This was tying up multiple BIM modellers and Fabrication Administrators who had to create spool sheets and raise fabrication orders. This ultimately lead PMP to look for the next solutions being developed by the industry for off-site fabrication.
This lead PMP to GTP Stratus, a company that was in development in 2017 when PMP approached them. PMP purchased their solution in 2018 and began the move to an electronic fabrication system. After the purchase, PMP worked closely with GTP Stratus to integrate their smart machinery including the NovARC automated welding robot, developing seamless welding directly from the BIM model and real-time video files, linked directly to each spool piece inside Stratus.
Stratus’ power lies in the automatic creation of spool sheets inside Revit, reducing administration time for the BIM team by 70% to create fabrication orders. The package dashboard allows real-time tracking of each order, each individual assembly, and connects the BIM model seamlessly with PMP’s smart machinery. Since implementing the software PMP has seen a 58% increase in assemblies produced by the shop when compared to 2019. PMP has achieved this without adding additional BIM modellers or admin staff to their fabrication team.
In the fabrication shop, the teams in the Copper, Stainless Steel, and Carbon Steel departments have benefited from the ability to see the overall scheme of the work they are completing thanks to Stratus’ model viewer. This viewer breaks down each package, including the progress their teams make in completing packages each day. The direct tie into PMP’s smart machinery has reduced cutting time per package by over 50%, and has reduced waste by using automated cut lists and nesting. Defects have reduced to less than 1% on a month-to-month basis due to these automating cutting of pipe, end preps & saddles, and the 3D isometric model of each spool sheet increasing fidelity for the fabrication teams.
PMP’s site teams can now track the Shop’s progress with orders in real- time, review packages before fabrication, and put spools on hold should changes be required due to a design change or site conditions. This gives the site teams control over fabrication, helping the shop better serve the field and vice versa, leading to a more cohesive team across all PMP’s projects.
The new system leverages QR codes for each spool, giving the shop and site teams the ability to scan each pipe spool, automatically locating and showing the details of the spool, reducing time sorting through spool sheets, providing auto dimensioning, and a 3D visualization. These QR codes are automatically generated and printed on stickers as the pipe is cut, removing the processing time for the fabrication teams to manually write the information on each spool.
Overall PMP has moved 3 departments to the all-electronic system and will be moving more of their day-to-day fabrications for the in-wall and mechanical room skid departments over to Stratus in the coming months, transitioning away from their old system. Once fully implemented in the fabrication shop the sites will begin using the system to track site progress as the assemblies are installed, tested and quality assured, and quality checked.
The move to GTP Stratus demonstrates PMP’s continued mission to leverage technology to improve off-site fabrication whilst driving the construction industry to utilize bleeding-edge technology to better improve the industry as a whole, removing the stigma that construction will “never change”.