Design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) in construction: the old and the new

Design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) has become a buzzword amid the global resurgence of prefabrication and construction industrialization. Some argued that DfMA is hardly new, as there are concepts such as buildability, lean construction, value management, and integrated project delivery in place already. Others believe that DfMA is a new direction to future construction. This paper aims to review the development of DfMA in manufacturing and its status quo in construction, and clarify its similarities and differences to other concepts. A multi-step research method is adopted in this study: First, an analytical framework is generated; Secondly, a literature review is conducted on DfMA in general, and DfMA-like concepts in the AEC industry; The third step is to compare DfMA with related concepts. This study reveals that DfMA as a philosophy is hardly new in construction, and the empirical implementation of many DfMA guidelines has begun in the AEC industry. The findings suggested that DfMA is a new and mixed ‘cocktail’ of opportunities and challenges to improve construction productivity with the advancement of construction materials, production and assembly technologies, and ever-strengthened logistics and supply chain management. This study sheds light on three research directions: DfMA implementation and guidance strategies, DfMA frameworks and blueprints, and applications in cast in-situ or intermediate prefabrication construction. Our research findings provide a synopsis of DfMA research and development in construction. This paper can also serve as a point of departure for future theoretical and empirical explorations.