Guest Blog: Why the Manufacturing Sector Loves Design-Build

By Steve Wright | March 18, 2016

The benefits of the design-build process have a broad appeal across just about every sector, from retail to higher education, but the place where those benefits may be most directly felt is in the manufacturing industry. Today’s stringent economy means constantly squeezed margins and ever-tightening production timelines. With so little fat left to trim, manufacturing companies, especially those committed to American-made products, must constantly seek innovative solutions for cost cutting. This is where design-build really shines.

How design-build cuts project costs for manufacturers

The planning and construction of new facilities is a moment of uncertainty for any manufacturing company. Such a huge investment represents a massive commitment of resources and time and also offers the potential for exceptional growth. Getting it right the first time is often the difference between disaster and triumph. Design-build projects help to cut down on the complexity and uncertainty of the entire process, and most importantly, they also cut costs. In fact, studies have consistently found project cost savings of between 10% and 18% and time savings from 15% to 60% over the course of a contract when using a design-build firm over a traditional “design-bid-build” process using separate firms.

In a traditional project trajectory, where you work first with a firm of architects or designers, then go through a bid process, and then work through the build with your chosen construction firm, slowdowns can happen at any stage. In a design-build project, there are simply less “moving parts” to manage, and less that can go wrong. Resources and expenses are not diverted to two different avenues, which means you need less of each. With a single unified contract, you cut your time commitment effectively in half: one set of negotiations and single meetings which can involve all parties at once, which means less time billed by everyone and less venue expenses to pay.

Working with a single team also keeps the lines of communication clear, so fewer meetings are required in general. During the design process, the involvement of the construction team at an early stage means that they can offer practical input on engineering considerations, reducing the need for on-the ground corrections later in the process. Throughout the build, construction engineering and inspection (CEI) costs are reduced because the design team is involved in quality assurance at every stage.

Why single-source accountability is so valuable to manufacturing companies

The upfront cost savings of design-build are hugely valuable to manufacturers, but they are only the beginning. The savings which arise from single-source accountability may seem more subtle at first glance, but their overall effects can be dramatic. Under present economic circumstances, mistakes and miscommunications during a new build can spell disaster. The project has to go right, because any delay can have a devastating effect on your ROI.

Design-build lets you cut to the heart of any issue quickly and efficiently, because all of the roles and responsibilities of the project rest on the shoulders of a single firm. There’s no time wasted with finger-pointing, and no passing the buck or the blame between the designer and the builder. If anything goes wrong on a design-build project, both are accountable. They can work together to find an efficient solution, and since they are a single entity, they already have all the processes in place to communicate and problem-solve together as a team. That open connection and conversation is invaluable throughout the project: it’s not only the quickest way to resolve problems; it’s also the best way to prevent them.

Open communication means less confusion and faster completion

There is a lot to coordinate in manufacturing. Precision is everything, and design is absolutely central to any manufacturing build because all of the finished parts must be assembled very specifically, or nothing works. There is little room for error, and slight miscalculations or misunderstandings can bring the entire project to a grinding (and costly) halt. Preserving the fidelity of information in communication is essential, which is another area where design-build shines. Every part of the team is in constant contact, which eliminates third parties, reduces time lost in slow correspondence and cuts down on miscommunications.

With a unified design-build team, everyone has a better comprehension of the manufactured components and how they work with one another to create the final project. Designers and builders work together to help each other understand how each piece fits into the overall project, and with two sets of trained eyes on the project at all times, you gain greater quality control: something every manufacturer craves. The designers and the builders have different priorities for high quality standards, so nothing is missed, and they constantly make each other better.

The most profitable benefits of design-build for manufacturers

At the end of the day, manufacturers must be concerned with the bottom line. Design-build makes everyone’s lives easier, but most importantly they offer significant potential for both savings and profit.

– Better project estimates

Components and costs are estimated and ordered more efficiently as a result of having a designer and builder collaborating on the process at every stage. With the involvement of design and engineering/construction experts at every stage, the project is able to stay on track more efficiently, reducing project creep, missed deadlines and budget overages.

– Better solutions

Integrated design-build teams can offer more innovative solutions to problems that can arise during the construction process. Perhaps even more importantly, they can often foresee and even prevent problems at earlier stages, thanks to their combined expertise, constant communication, and mutual oversight.

– Reduced opportunity costs

In a design-build project, both processes and communication are more streamlined, leading automatically to faster completion times. The faster a project is up and running, the faster it can start making money and earning an ROI, which is vital to any manufacturing company in the process of expansion.

Speed, efficiency and value are absolutely essential in today’s cost-conscious economy, and design-build presents a remarkable opportunity for manufacturers to conserve valuable resources at the point of expansion: a crucial moment for any business.

Steve Wright works for Whirlwind Steel Buildings, a manufacturer of pre-engineered steel buildings and components. Whirlwind Steel metal buildings are manufactured and designed to meet the highest quality standards. To learn more, visit