September 2022 - 27

feature | solution focus
A modular-home
turns mods into
hovercraft for easy
Air Casters
Home Building
CONSTRUCTION OF MODULAR structures is fueling major cost
and time effi ciencies in home building. According to analysts at
McKinsey & Co., modular construction can deliver projects as much as
50% faster and 20% cheaper than traditional methods, but making
modular construction work effi ciently is no easy task.
A Colorado-based manufacturer of modular single-family homes
wanted to build a more productive facility and had to fi nd a better
approach for the assembly line. Th e goal was to produce more than 700
modular homes, apartments, and townhomes annually. Each unit, or
" box, " needed to move between two dozen workstations. To maximize
productive capacity, the company needed an innovative workfl ow:
a high-effi ciency, U-shaped assembly line surrounding a mezzanine
complete with tooling, parts, and offi ces. Almost no material-handling
system they evaluated could meet all their needs. Cranes and forkliſt s
didn't have the capacity to accommodate the large mod structures and
rails can't curve or the pathway be moved once installed.
Born out of the same technology used by hovercraſt and air-hockey
tables, air casters from AeroGo Inc., Seattle, WA (, allow
massive structures to fl oat on a thin, nearly frictionless fi lm of air. A
low-profi le material-handling system that could slide under modular
boxes in these manufacturing facilities, air casters use compressed air
(100 psi) to infl ate about ten donut-shaped bags under each multi-ton
box. Th ey eff ectively transform each box into a giant fl oating hovercraſt .
Air casters act as
hovercraft to move large
modular structures down
an assembly line.
As a result, even a small team of six workers-four movers and two spotters-can
easily and precisely move, position, and even rotate an entire
box just by pushing.
Th anks to the air casters, the company gained fl exibility in how to
design and build its manufacturing facility for production effi ciency.
Instead of having a building stretching longer than a football fi eld, they
built a square facility that could power high-speed production and meet
production goals.
Because air casters can move so quickly, they could increase throughput
versus other material-handling systems. Th ey built their desired
high-effi ciency U-shaped production line, which shortened all logistics,
reduced waste, and placed input and output on the same side of the
building. Th e facility maneuvers each box down a certain number of stations
in one direction, move laterally, and return across the same number
of stations, eff ectively doubling the number of boxes under construction
at any time. All tooling is within easy reach in the center of the U. Offi ces
were built above the tooling area and off er visibility over the production.
Th e casters also provide a means to ensure production continuity, even in
the face of changes or problems. Types of structures can be alternated at
will. One order might be for 56-ſt . boxes and the next for 76-ſt . structures.
With air casters in place, changes can be accommodated on the fl y.
Workers can also pull an unfi nished mod out of the line and store it sideways
out of the way. Th at fl exibility ensures maximum throughput. EP
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September 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September 2022

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