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 3DEXPERIENCE Construction
Akio Moriwaki
Akio Moriwaki
As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.

A Lean Construction Case Study: How Saint-Gobain Increases Efficiency With Lean Practices

July 17th, 2014 by Akio Moriwaki

McGraw Hill Construction, the Lean Construction Institute, and Dassault Systèmes teamed up to produce an in-depth report on Lean Construction.

Below is an excerpt from that report on how digital configuration multi-product assemblies are increasing industry efficiency at Saint-Gobain.

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Increasing Industry Efficiency With Digital Configuration Multi-Product Assemblies

Since 1988, building product manufacturers in the European Union have been working to comply with the “Construction Products Directive” (CPD), a piece of landmark legislation that “aims to ensure the free movement of all construction products by introducing a common technical language” to describe and define product characteristics.

Those could include mechanical strength, fire resistance, heat retention, or any of a wide range of other properties critical to a product’s installed performance.

Saint-Gobain LogoSaint-Gobain is a building product manufacturer headquartered in France with a global presence in over 55 countries. They manufacture a broad range of products, including insulation, gypsum, exterior products, pipe and industrial mortars, as well as a number of prefabricated assemblies involving multiple products.

According to Laurent Ortas, head of new construction technologies, and Francois Pincemin, head of constructive solutions and prefabrication, the company has long been committed to supporting the CPD and is now leveraging that platform to support their leadership role in the emerging trend of highly efficient model-based design, fabrication and construction.

Standardization of Product Descriptions

Anticipating their customers’ need for digital versions of Saint-Gobain products to function in model-based applications and workflows, the company has been working closely with the AIMCC, a French association of building product manufacturers, to create a European Standard Dictionary, available in French, German, Swedish and English that would be a consistent reference as they, and others, developed parametric models of building products.

AIMCC anticipates having a comprehensive European standard dictionary of product properties and an ongoing maintenance process in place by the end of 2014.

Using this dictionary, all building product manufacturers can harmonize their digital product offerings for greater interoperability, a key user-friendly goal of all organizations participating in digital design and construction.

Impact on Industry Efficiency

Saint-Gobain is advancing the practice further by allowing design and construction professionals to search for products based on the characteristics they need, as well as to virtually configure more complex assemblies from complementary product lines.

And to make their offering even more functional, Saint-Gobain is enabling the automatic creation by users of digital model versions of the selected products or configured assemblies. This avoids the need for manufacturers to invest in vast catalogs of pre-built digital models and have them waiting for users to find and download.

Instead, a model based on a customer’s specific needs can be generated and delivered quickly, on-demand, from underlying product data that have been structured to comply with the standard dictionary.

Another common problem of prebuilt product models is that they often contain either too little or too much information for the user’s need at hand.

Saint-Gobain addresses that by allowing users to control how simple or complex their on-demand model will be, depending on its intended use.

To ensure that as many users as possible can take advantage of this capability, Saint-Gobain is working in alignment with the many other international organizations that are all promoting IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) as an interoperable standard for model exchange between various software tools.

The reliance on standardized digital descriptions of product characteristics also helps Saint-Gobain to engage in more efficient manufacturing by allowing computer-controlled cutting and finishing equipment to work directly from the data. This reduces waste, improves efficiency, and provides assemblies that are faster to install onsite.

In fact, products and assemblies for an entire project can be manufactured in sync with construction production schedules to enable smaller “Just-In-Time” deliveries to the site, which can generate many benefits for time, labor, safety, and project control.


These efforts by Saint-Gobain are extremely encouraging because they demonstrate that enlightened manufacturers, along with contractors and industry organizations, are increasingly recognizing the contribution of standards, collaborations, and partnerships to achieve the benefits of Lean principles industry-wide, not just for individual practitioners.

Download the full SmartMarket Report, with our compliments.Lean Construction SmartMarket Report

Related Resources

Dassault Systéms’ Lean Construction 3DEXPERIENCE® Solution

Lean Construction Institute

McGraw Hill Construction

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Categories: AEC, Business Processes, Collaboration, Dassault Systèmes, Industrialized Construction, Lean Construction, Prefabrication, Technologies

One Response to “A Lean Construction Case Study: How Saint-Gobain Increases Efficiency With Lean Practices”

  1. Smilensky says:

    A rather silly idea. Creating a centralized center where products of thousands of manufacturers could be configured in real time so that specifiers could download them pre configured and have to query the system every time they’d like a change… I don’t see what’s “lean” about that. If anything, it’s going to be extremely costly and very difficult to use. It will be nothing but a huge white elephant and let me explain why:
    – Let’s say there are only 100 manufacturers that go along with the system
    – They each put only 100 products in this central Configurator, that’ll make that Configurator 10,000 products rich
    – Now let’s imagine only a 1,000 architectural practices using that real-time online product configuration system downloading pre-configured ifc versions of the products
    – Each architectural practice works on only 10 projects simultaneously, these are 10 BIM models.
    – Each model will have, let’s say – only 1,000 different products specified – that is 10,000 products per agency
    – … Times 1,000 Architectural practices = 10 million products to be handled in real time by the Configurator.
    – Obviously not all 10 million will be querying the Configurator in any given second, let’s say only 10% of specified products will be handled daily as the BIM model is being changed as the project progresses.
    – That leaves a million queries a day for only 1,000 practices. (And i’m being clement here…) now, there are 27,000 architectural practices in France so their system will have to deal with 27,000,000 queries a day in a slow day…

    I hope Saint Gobain is going to acquire both Facebook AND Google in the near future as they’ll need all of their servers + some of Amazon’s in order to calculate just HALF the number of real-time queries this system will have to deal with. And that, only with 10,000 objects.. There are 6,500 product manufacturers in France each having about 1,000 objects in their catalogs. That is 6,5 million objects times 27 million queries. Good luck with that boys!

    Oh, and not to mention the fact that .ifc is not yet fully operational and making a BIM component in .ifc format that could work seamlessly in all existing BIM software is virtually impossible… The fact that Nemetschek is now developing a direct .rvt / .rfa convertor to her products and the fact that it is very likely that Autodesk’s .rvt will be the “next dwg” as soon as it’ll be available for users, renders this whole operation even more useless.

    And did I mention that architects HATE working with non-native CAD / BIM formats ? good luck convincing them to work with your system Saint Gobain. Especially knowing that in order to get a feedback from your system the architect will have to be CONSTANTLY online whereas many projects are done on offline machines for security reasons.

    “Lean Practice”? I don’t think so.

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