Barry Zekelman, Executive Chairman & CEO, Zekelman Industries
If only construction in the real world were as easy as building structures with Lego blocks. All one needs to do is snap together multi-colored blocks to give shape to hotels, apartments, stores and more. With Chicago-based Z Modular, such speedy off-site construction is now a reality. The company is turning heads in the industry with its one-of-a-kind, precision-engineered steel modular construction system, value-added services, and partner network that empower building owners to build better than ever before.
As a concept, modular construction has been around for decades. Today, however, there is a renewed surge in modular projects fueled by the twin forces of the urban housing crisis and labor crunch. Consumers, contractors and manufacturers alike are realizing that modular construction is the way of the future, as it brings convenience, time savings, quality and sustainability. Despite its numerous advantages, the confined and fragmented nature of the modular construction world holds it back. Most service providers in the industry operate on a small scale and are limited by production capacity and the ability to scale, forcing developers and designers to learn the intricacies of multiple systems. But Z Modular is set to change all that.
Z Modular is a division of Zekelman Industries, the largest independent steel tube and pipe manufacturer in North America, with an operating history of nearly 150 years. Today, Zekelman Industries’ steel tube, pipe, electrical conduit and fence framework are used across industries such as building construction, agriculture, energy and industrial applications. The company’s breadth of products and legacy of success form a strong foundation for Z Modular.
"If we don’t already have an appropriate solution in our portfolio, we more than willingly go out of our way to tailor-make it"
“Backed by Zekelman Industries, at Z Modular, we leverage industry-leading construction processes that reduce risks, eliminate waste, and enhance ROI. This makes us a trusted choice and the go-to solution provider for modular construction,” states Mickey McNamara, president of Z Modular and executive vice president of Zekelman Industries. As a testament to its competence, in less than two years, Z Modular has managed to set up four factories across North America, catering to clients from diverse locations.
A Universal Construction System Designed for Project Predictability
Central to Z Modular’s offering is its Z Modular®
universal construction system, which includes design optimization, manufacturing excellence and stacking expertise, — all optimized to ensure project predictability. The steel framing products include VectorBloc™ connections and steel hollow structural sections, which provide precise and tight tolerances for even stacking and design flexibility while allowing buildings to go taller than possible with standard modular construction.
The system is designed to improve the seismic performance of a building and ensure that modules produced at different factories will fit together when they arrive at the site.
“At Z Modular we use a +0″, -1/16″ tolerance to ensure all of our modules meet the exact demands of the building owner. We also build the modules to 95 percent completion in our factories, including facade installation, while other solution providers complete only 50 to 60 percent of the work off-site,” explains McNamara. Additionally, as opposed to wood construction, Z Modular buildings are rated Type II non-combustible and are naturally resistant to pests and molds.
Z Modular’s proprietary design and engineering offerings incorporate this precision and greatly expedite the off-site construction processes. For example, predefined Revit®
design plug-ins and templates allow for deep collaboration and the capability to digitally translate designs from stick construction to modular, bringing new possibilities to construction. Even when it comes to outfitting, Z Modular’s licensed contractors fit out each module and ship it to the job site with no risk of misalignment. Since Z Modular buildings are almost fully completed in climate-controlled factories, projects have less material waste, fewer weather delays and less on-site disturbance. Moreover, each building is precisely engineered keeping in mind full code compliance.
“While everyone else in the market is still restricted to tape measures and hammers, we are leading the way with robotics, customized software integrations and advanced automation,” says McNamara with pride. Z Modular’s extensive range of solutions and functionality are rare in the modular construction market, making them truly unique.
Z Modular also goes the extra mile by ensuring that a single team manages a project from start to finish. As a result, a client does not have to switch from one point of contact to another or struggle with multiple contracts for materials transportation and installation. Z Modular also houses on-staff construction engineers and architects who hold deep domain knowledge and understanding of the technicalities related to a project. This is to ensure that clients receive seamless service from step to step.
Reduce the Labor, Increase the Efficiency
Presently, Z Modular is a driving force behind a range of construction projects across North America that went the modular way, from residential apartments and hotels to dormitories, commercial buildings, and much more. In every instance, clients are completing their projects at an accelerated pace with lower risks and at a clearly defined cost.
“At the onset of each project, Z Modular clearly listens to the challenges of a customer. If we don’t already have an appropriate solution in our portfolio, we more than willingly go out of our way to tailor-make it for them,” states Barry Zekelman, executive chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries.
To better highlight Z Modular and Zekelman Industries’ unique value proposition, Zekelman goes on to narrate a typical scenario from the company’s countless client success stories. When a fabricator receives a release on a building, they must procure materials rather quickly while reducing scrap.
Mickey McNamara, President, Z Modular and Executive Vice President, Zekelman Industries
The only way to achieve this is through custom lengths. As such, Zekelman Industries offers custom lengths to match a client’s specific needs and provides value-added fabrication and logistics services. There have been instances when Zekelman Industries has helped organizations procure materials within days (even hours), as opposed to other vendors that take four to six weeks to complete the process.
For optimum business operations, Zekelman Industries also offers a cutting-edge automated inventory management (AIM) system that easily integrates customers’ demands with a manufacturer’s inventory and production schedule in real time for auto replenishment. The solution takes away the manual labor involved in reviewing reports, checking stock keeping units, and collating information from clients as well as sales teams. AIM also allows users to take a more programmatic approach to logistics, which includes placing shipments on auto-pilot mode so that clients are not overwhelmed with products they don’t need. In the end, while the old way of inventory management invariably ties up cash and space, with AIM, it is all about the highest level of efficiency and insights.
“Zekelman Industries, as a group, constantly invests in the best technology tools and talent, which allows us to always remain ahead of the curve,” explains Zekelman. Governed by the belief that happy employees lead to happy customers, Zekelman Industries follows an open-door policy to encourage a culture of collaboration and best-in-class customer service.
The Way to Build Better
Z Modular’s rise to fame is also due to its partner program, the Z Modular Network, through which it extends its construction system and software tools so developers and general contractors can open their own off-site construction factories. The program is a win-win situation in every sense, since it allows construction solution providers to significantly reduce the capital and investments required to set up new factories, and in turn ensures that Z Modular’s products reach a wider audience. For the maximum benefit of its partners, Z Modular also offers comprehensive support and consulting services in terms of how to set up factories and use the system. “Overall it is a full-service program of how to run a factory, out of a box,” explains McNamara.
Going forward Z Modular will increase its current annual capacity of 4 million sq. ft. by expanding its partner network. In 12 to 18 months, approximately 20 factories will be building with the Z Modular system. The company is also heavily investing in automation to fuel round-the-clock supply across the continent.
“Today, the world runs on instant gratification and one-day deliveries, and soon organizations will expect the same from the steel and construction industry. To stay on the leading edge, construction companies and manufacturers must meet these demands,” mentions Zekelman. In short, there is a genuine disruption in the making in repeatable and volumetric construction, and Z Modular is leading the game.