Periodically I get e-mails from companies in China that fabricate container buildings and other modular structures. I also get calls from people that want to fabricate in an offshore location for the US. I have also talked to people in other countries that successfully built container structures that were fabricated in China, so it’s not impossible.

Runkle Consulting

The process sounds pretty good – you get the manufacturing expertise plus the low labor costs of China (or other countries), which allows you to fabricate fairly cheaply. This allows you to build a product, and sell it for a lower price/higher profit. It isn’t so easy in the US though. In this video I discuss the challenges of fabricating in another country and importing into the United States.

With the USA, you have two basic challenges:

  1. Inspections: Generally in the US, the states require you to manufacture buildings offsite according to their modular building program. Usually, this means a third party inspector must inspect the building before it ships. Most states require an approved engineer do this inspection.
  2. Shipping Costs: To cover for the shipping costs, the building fabrication must provide a substantial discount.

There is also the issue of being able to observe the modifications of the containers while it is happening, and making changes as needed. If you have to spend a significant amount of time and money to get to the fabrication site, that can be a serious problem.

As a spoiler, I have been less than impressed with the attempts to fabricate offshore that I’ve seen. The issue of having inspections done properly is a stumbing block, but it seems shipping costs are also a major problem. Can you somehow come up with a module that can comply with ISO standards for a shipping container? That way you can ship at a cheaper rate. That’s not easy. I’ll do a specific post on that problem.

Anyway, here is the video: