COMPASS: Can you briefly describe Leko Labs and its work?
François Cordier: We started five years ago to revolutionize the design, engineering, manufacture and construction of sustainable housing by deploying technology that addresses the cost, time, risk and inefficiencies of building with traditional materials and methods. By manufacturing glue-free, cross-machined, ecologically treated timber components from renewable sources, our walls are lighter, stronger and 40% thinner. This increases the liveable space by up to 10% over conventional building methods.
What is your company philosophy?
FC: We were inspired by the automotive and aerospace industries to use robotics and digitalization to economically and sustainably mass-produce good quality products. We connect the dots and apply that same technology to construction.
What are the main construction industry challenges that your company addresses?
FC: Construction is a highly fragmented, conservative, low-productivity industry that uses outdated materials and methods to build inefficiently with damaging environmental impacts and large-scale waste. Leko Labs’ approach is to use renewable wood as a primary construction material within an efficient, connected enterprise. We deploy advanced digitalization, vertical integration, workflow coordination and robotized manufacturing technology. This strategy removes cost and time overruns to significantly reduce the risks associated with traditional construction.
How does the Leko Labs system re-invent the construction process?
FC: A conventional house takes around 24 months to build. Currently, a Leko Labs house takes nine months to complete. With further advances in robotized component manufacture and assembly, this will soon be reduced to six months. And, with the introduction of modular rooms with pre-installed plumbing and electrics, we are working toward reducing the build time of a complete house to 24 hours.
What effect does this have on construction industry economics?
FC: Because we can increase room spaces within the same footprint as a conventional property and substantially cut build times, developers can provide more accommodation and see a faster return on their investments. Architects may not always be required to design or coordinate projects, and subcontractors who have been more than 30% over budget will no longer be able to overcharge this way. Leko Labs’ buildings are recyclable so, after 30 or 50 years of use, they can be disassembled and re-used on an infinite loop.
How have you integrated your processes, partners and supply chain – and what advantages have you achieved?
FC: Our online portal achieves a digital thread that runs through the extended enterprise. Therefore, all aspects of our business, including project management, finance, bills of materials, as well as client and stakeholder updates, are fully integrated. The advantage is that our business is easy and quick to scale through repeatability because international partners can start collaborating instantly.
What DfMA (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) technologies does Leko Labs deploy?
FC: We are able to automatically turn any architect’s plan into a Leko Labs design in 10 minutes. Using a single digital model throughout our processes increases productivity and avoids the potential mistakes and quality issues caused by misinterpretation. We deploy technology that automatically generates optimized scripts for dividing wall lattices, slats and posts as well as BOMs [bills of materials] and NC [numerical control] files. Designs that are verified for stress analysis are directly linked to robotized CNC [computerized numerical control] machines that manufacture building components. A simple on-screen “print” button initiates their manufacture.
What is the role of 3D simulation in your business?
FC: Simulation drives everything at Leko Labs because we simulate all aspects of the workflow. Design, engineering, manufacture, logistics and final assembly are represented in 3D so we can perfect and optimize every element and each step of a project digitally, before we commit any physical resources.
How do you see the future for Leko Labs and the industry in general?
FC: In addition to single family houses, we are developing the technology for high-rise buildings in which everything will be modularized and pre-fabricated. Building component factories will be de-centralized, moving into cities to reduce transportation. Mass customization will become the norm and families will configure their home online the same way as they currently specify their car. Labor shortages in construction will continue, but digitalization and automation of the industry will help achieve commercial and environmental sustainability, enabling more costeffective housing for generations to come.
To see Leko Labs’ unique design system, view the video at go.3ds.com/pvm
To discover how a digital thread connects the extended enterprise, please visit go.3ds.com/yjG