Manufacturing Offsite: Growing Our U.S. Capabilities to Serve New Markets

When Katerra was founded in 2015, we began with a focus on optimizing the building materials supply chain through the application of technology. Guided by our goal to help address some of the construction industry’s most entrenched challenges, we quickly realized we needed to broaden our scope and put technology to work at all levels of building design and construction. This includes utilizing offsite manufacturing to bring new efficiencies to building projects.

“When we decided to add manufacturing, our objective was not to create another silo in the AEC industry. Rather, we aimed to develop world-class manufacturing capabilities that allow us to rethink and re-engineer the way building systems are assembled,”

Nic Brathwaite, Chief Technology Officer for Katerra.

Today, we have a growing footprint of global factories, which act as an extension of job sites by maximizing construction activity within the factory environment to drive improved productivity. In the U.S., we are nearing completion of our building components factory located in Tracy, California. As our most technologically advanced factory to date, Tracy provides a template for our future component factories and offers insight into how Katerra is applying technology offsite to reduce time to completion at the project site.

Tracy Factory Ramps Up 

At 577,000 square feet, Katerra’s Tracy factory is an advanced manufacturing facility with automated wood frame wall, floor, and roof truss lines, robotics-enabled cabinet, finish and window lines, and cold-formed steel production. In addition to the production lines, the Tracy plant has a maintenance shop, office, an R&D lab, and a product showroom. Located close to rail, shipping ports, and freeways for ease of transport, the Tracy factory will serve Katerra projects across the West Coast.

“We have invested significantly in developing proprietary automation technologies for our Tracy factory,” said Matt Ryan, head of manufacturing for Katerra. “Tracy features 30 fixed robots, 12 mobile robots, and a digital manufacturing process using Self-Guided Vehicle technology. It is a step-change from our Phoenix factory, accelerating Katerra’s production of high-quality building components manufactured to precision.”

The construction of the facility is mostly complete, with activity now focused on finishing the R&D lab, office space, and showroom. We are beginning the operation of the production lines in stages, and we’re already shipping products from our window, cabinet, roof truss, and floor truss lines. We have also begun construction of a rail spur, which will be completed in early 2020.

We have hired nearly 200 full-time employees to date. By the end of 2020, we expect to reach full production with three shifts and more than 500 employees who will have the opportunity to learn and operate some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment available in the industry. At full capacity, the factory will be able to produce, on an annual basis, the equivalent of 12,500 multifamily units.

“Tracy features 30 fixed robots, 12 mobile robots, and a digital manufacturing process using Self-Guided Vehicle technology. It is a step-change from our Phoenix factory, accelerating Katerra’s production of high-quality building components manufactured to precision.”

Matt Ryan, head of manufacturing for Katerra.

Phoenix Factory Update

Now that our Tracy factory is coming online, we will close the smaller Phoenix manufacturing facility at the end of the year. Opened in 2017, Katerra’s 250,000 square-foot Phoenix factory was our first building components manufacturing facility. As a semi-automated factory, the Phoenix plant represents our first-generation approach to building component manufacturing, which we have advanced to fully automated processes at Tracy.

We appreciate the contributions of our Phoenix factory employees, and we’re committed to supporting them during this transition to minimize personal impact. We look forward to our continued operational presence in Arizona with many employees and building projects in design and under construction.

Expanding Manufacturing to the South, Central and East Coast U.S. 

We are expanding our manufacturing footprint to serve the South and Central U.S. markets with a new 600,000 square-foot building components factory in San Marcos, Texas. Similar in scope to our Tracy factory, the San Marcos factory will feature the same production lines, advanced technologies and will create more than 500 full-time jobs. Construction of the San Marcos factory is slated to begin in early 2020, with production starting in 2021. Katerra also intends to establish a manufacturing presence on the East Coast for projects in the region.

As Katerra works to unlock higher productivity in building design and construction, pushing as much component completion as possible to the factory environment will remain a central focus for our company. We look forward to sharing more on our manufacturing progress as all elements of the Tracy factory are completed in the coming months.

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