7295 State Highway 66
Tulsa, OK 74131
  • Doug Sahm

Manufactured vs. Field-Built Equipment

As a company, TPE Midstream is exclusively focused on rental equipment for the pipeline industry. We know our equipment will be used and abused in the field, and we design and fabricate our equipment to handle the worst pipeline jobs in stride. We are often confronted with end-users and project managers comparing a build-on-site solution with a rental option. We firmly believe that build-on-site (“stick-build”) leave legacy issues with the end-user, as opposed to a manufactured solution that is modular and ready to “plug-in” to your project.

Manufactured vs Built On-Site


Standard operating procedures, quality assurance departments and personnel, comprehensive documentation, and established techniques that add to the overall quality of the work are commonplace in a manufacturing environment. In addition, shop environments are not weather dependent, so loss of productivity and risk of not meeting the quality specifications due to wind, rain, snow, flooding, etc. are rare. Work conditions and material handling indoors lead to higher quality fit-up and assembly. IF A MANUFACTURED PRODUCT DOES NOT PASS QA/QC, THAT UNIT DOESN’T SHIP OUT.

Vendors and sub-contractors are largely left to manage their own quality control. Typically little to no management of material quality control, and inspection is typically only performed after the finished construction is complete, making any rework very expensive. If small defects are not detected during final inspection, those issues persist for the life of the installation, typically without backup documentation. The end-user bears ultimate responsibility for oversight of every separate vendor on-site, and is usually concerned about so many other aspects of the project that on-site quality assurance is very difficult to achieve and rarely measures up to a manufacturing facility’s QA/QC programs.


The efficiency gained from working in a controlled environment alone have been shown to range from 20%-33%. In addition, manufactured systems are typically purchased in a fixed-bid or lump-sum fashion, with no risk of cost overruns. In addition, manufacturing facilities typically have faster build-times, which results in less lead-time for the finished product, which can mean huge savings in avoided down-time.

The cost of field operations are not only high, they are volatile and difficult to predict. Daily labor rates, overtime, and standby charges are commonplace when on-site work is being performed, and cost overruns can quickly add up to a point that dramatic cost-cutting measures are taken, which typically results in an inferior final product.


A well run manufacturing facility has its processes mapped down to a minute-by-minute level, and schedules are planned, monitored, and controlled to assure that your product ships on time. Reduced dependence on 3rd parties allows a manufacturer to control production schedules to a level that is not possible in the field.

Coordination and project management of stick-built projects is a professional that requires highly skilled and experienced individuals. These individuals know that on-site schedules depend on weather, labor availability, equipment availability, other on-site activity, safety concerns, and the ever-present scheduling issues associated with jobsites. If the light-plant is out, you’re delayed. If it rains, you’re delayed. The list goes on, and any project manager will tell you that the more you can pre-fabricate and use manufactured assemblies, the more likely the project will complete on time.


If you like the product that was delivered last time, call the manufacturer and order another. It will arrive as a clone of the first unit. Repeat orders to a manufacturer typically result in increased efficiency, proven delivery, and excellent repeatability. Strict process control ensure that every pre-fabricated and manufactured assembly are done the same way, resulting in “products” that are identical, even built years or decades apart.

Who built this? How did they get that set up last time? Do you remember back when this was built? These are common questions that need to be answered to repeat a project. The lack of strict process control in the field leads to projects that reflect the preferences and capabilities of the people on site at the time. This leads to variability as those people and conditions change over time.


A single source of responsibility exists with your manufacturer. Issues that arise can be addressed by someone with thorough records, and knowledge of the exact work processes used to construct your unit.

After the on-site crews have left, who is responsible for the first issue that arises? The end-user. Support comes in the form of a contractor on a day rate, and this will continue for the life of the facility.


In-plant work removes the bulk of jobsite hazards. Work at height (#1 cause of death in construction) is often completely eliminated. Weather conditions are not a safety concern in a controlled facility. Safety inspection and monitoring is an on-going, ever present force in a manufacturing facility. Additionally, in the event of an incident, response time is dramatically lower and more resources are available to mitigate the accident.

The hazards of on-site construction are so numerous that entire forms of “Job Safety Analysis” need to be addressed and evaluated on a daily basis. Even with these measures, fatal accidents occur on construction projects 2.5x as often as in manufacturing facilities. Many times, contractors are left to “look after themselves,” and if any accident does occur, the ability to respond and address the situation is often limited, with help possibly hours away, and very little on-site ability to treat injuries.


Incoming materials are subject to entry QA inspection, and if any material does not meet the standards for the project, it is rejected and immediately replaced. Materials are worked in a controlled environment to ensure they are not contaminated, corroded, damaged, or otherwise compromised.

Typically, on-site construction projects will use whatever materials are most readily available, with little to no control to make sure a Chinese-made cast part doesn’t end up somewhere in the assembly of thousands of components. Documentation of material inspection is a rarity for stick-built projects.

TPE Midstream equipment is always manufactured in a process controlled environment, and when our equipment arrives on site, project managers and workers can rely on the superior quality, safety, and support of TPE Midstream built midstream equipment.