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The modular housing company, backed by softbank, wants to upend the traditional construction industry

2022-09-16 06:52:36


However, Gary Beesley, chief executive of roof, the rental market company, points out that Katerra's domestic rivals now look more like small design shops than large factories.


June 25(Bloomberg) -- modular home company Katerra is using softbank's massive investment to steadily cut costs and labor demand to create more affordable prefabricated homes, Bloomberg reported. Its chairman says the company will be profitable next year.

在菲尼克斯的工厂里,Katerra的员工和机器人在装配线上制造预制墙板。

在Katerra公司位于菲尼克斯西边的占地25万平方英尺的工厂里,房地产开发商们在比对石英台面和浴室设备,而建筑师则在使用公司的设计软件从预制计划中进行挑选。在工厂车间里,工人们和机器人把花旗松底板装到成品墙板上,之后把它们放在装配线上,在那里,其他的机器和工匠加上窗户和管道,然后起重机将完工的墙壁转移到卡车上。三天后,当卡车抵达加利福尼亚州洛迪市时,建筑材料经理阿曼达·安德尔(Amanda Andel)使用RFID扫描仪查看到货情况,并使用iPad来显示起重机应该把一栋四层楼的养老院的每个组件放在哪里。

这一过程对建筑业来说是一个根本性的变化,对数十年来一成不变的传统建筑模式来说是一大威胁。正当其他建筑科技初创公司试图将业务的某些部分现代化,比如设计模块化住宅,或者建造由机器人运作的工厂来制造预制部件,Katerra似乎最有希望将所有这些部分整合在一起,从设计到预制。它正在推销自有的一些电器、地毯、窗户甚至工程木材。房地产公司Legacy Partners首席执行长迪恩·亨利(Dean Henry)说,该公司希望控制从“子宫到坟墓”的一切。

在短短三年多一点的时间里,Katerra已经筹集了超过10亿美元的风险投资,软银集团旗下的愿景基金(Vision Fund)是牵头方。它表示,其预订订单总额接近30亿美元。“几乎在任何地方,你都能省下一笔钱。”该公司的董事长迈克尔·马科斯(Michael Marks)指出,“传统的建造方式在很多方面都效率低下,有点让人受不了。”他还表示,他希望在五年内实现约150亿美元的年营收。

6月21日,Katerra表示,它将与印度最大的同行公司KEF Infra合并;该印度公司将获得数亿美元的现金和股票。该交易可以让Katerra接触到商业客户(其中包括IT巨头印孚瑟斯)以及印度和中东庞大的建筑市场。合并后的公司将有260个总价值约37亿美元的项目。

Katerra is benefiting from a combination of factors, including a housing shortage, automation progress and a large number of venture capitalists seeking high returns. It will need more investment and better timing to reshape a highly regulated, highly cyclical, low-margin and unchanging industry.

Katerra希望通过减少材料选择和制造更多自有的材料——甚至是工程木材——来削减成本。

该公司的创始人包括私募股权投资者马科斯,杠杆收购专家吉姆·戴维森(Jim Davidson)以及房地产开发商弗里茨·沃尔夫(Fritz Wolff)。到目前为止,他们最大的客户是沃尔夫本人,他的开发公司已经向Katerra下了5亿多美元的订单。沃尔夫说,他有认识到对有着典型创业公司问题的创业公司抱有如此大的信心的风险,“但在我看来,失败就像行业现状那样。”马科斯誓言公司明年将实现盈利。

Katerra's way to save money is by buying everything from wood to toilets in bulk and using software and sensors to closely track materials, factory output and construction speed.Its architects use software to build catalogs of standard buildings, rather than starting from scratch for every project, while ensuring that contractors don't make hasty structural decisions.Each generation of buildings is becoming increasingly "prefabricatable", i.e. less jobsite work and accelerated construction.

在洛迪工地,墙壁送达的时候,有大约70名工人在现场组装。Katerra的建筑主管麦克·洛克(Mike Rock)表示,通常来说还要增加10个左右的人手。据洛克称,在加利福尼亚州卡森的一个类似项目中,该公司将使用25名工人来搭建建筑,相比之下另一家竞标公司说需要使用150人。其中的一些劳动力将会转移到工厂,那里的人会更多。

Prior to working on private equity investments, Marcos was best known for running Flex Corporation.Formerly known as Flextronics International, the company is an electronics manufacturer and one of the world's largest suppliers to the technology industry.If you have iMacs, Xbox game consoles, or HP printers, they're probably made of Flextronics.He spent about 10 years in the private equity industry before his friend Wolf asked him to apply Flex's cost-cutting model to the construction industry.

Katerra煞费苦心地向开发商展示,他们的房子比人们所想象的工厂建造的模块化房屋更加时尚。在菲尼克斯工厂的陈列室里,有一套高端的模型公寓,配有石英台面、不锈钢、通用电气电器、实木复合地板和检漏传感器;还有一套配有相对低端的设备、更薄的台面和乙烯地板的公寓。另一个陈列室里有定制的地毯样品、水龙头和其他的选择。

However, Katerra will also reduce costs by purchasing significantly fewer material options than those presented by external architects. “It's stupid to buy too many materials,” said Marcos, who plans to build four more plants in the United States, each twice the size of the Phoenix plant. At the same time, it is seeking to develop more of its own raw materials, sell more of its own equipment and perhaps move into trucking.

The concept of modular houses dates back more than a century – from 1908 to 1940, Sears, ? Roebuck & Co sold more than 70,000 prefabricated homes — but in the view of Mark Erlich, a Harvard fellow and former treasurer for the New England Woodworking Regional Council, technology is changing the construction industry far less than it has changed any other major U.S. industry.Ehrlich says innovators are discouraged because they can't raise enough money or don't have enough guaranteed business, or both.

In this area, Europe is going further, and the United States is changing.BoKlok, a joint venture between IKEA and Skanska AB, is building affordable multifamily buildings in Scandinavia, and many smaller U.S. company names such as Prescient, Blu Homes, Hive Modular and many other smaller U.S. company names are also designing and selling prefabricated homes.According to market research firm CB Insights, venture capitalists have invested $3.9 billion in construction- and real estate-related technologies over the past five-and-a-half years.However, Gary Beasley, CEO of rental market company Roof, noted that at the moment Katerra's domestic competitors look more like small design stores than large factories.

马科斯说,与技术供应商打交道比与建筑公司打交道更加困难,但Katerra有很多严重的烦恼。iMac或Xbox只有少数几款标准机型,相比之下,公寓的建造需要考虑11万个美国市镇的建筑法规,而且各有特点。在不同的地方,区域地震和天气需求可能存在很大的差异。而Katerra稳步削减劳动力成本(即减少工作岗位)的目标,在这个行业会对它造成不利。该公司承认,到目前为止,它一直避免涉足工会势力强大的地区。如果它想在大城市里竞争项目,那将会是个问题。前工会官员马克·埃利希(Mark Erlich)说,工会领导人可能会要求Katerra的工厂成立工会。

Despite the challenges, Marcos said, his company's focus on speed and cost savings will help it reach customers.Its focus on multi-family homes, homes for the elderly and other homes may insulate it to some extent from declining demand for products such as single-family homes.Speaking about the company's long-term plans, Marcos said, "People don't understand or believe it, but they will eventually believe it."”