Skip to the content

Understanding construction supply chains: an alternative interpretation

Vrijhoef, R, Koskela, LJ and Howell, G 2001, Understanding construction supply chains: an alternative interpretation , in: 9th International Group for Lean Construction Conference., August 2001, National University of Singapore.

PDF - Published Version
Download (69kB) | Preview


Much research work has assessed that construction is ineffective and many problems can be observed. Analysis of these problems has shown that a major part of them are supply chain problems, originating at the interfaces of different parties or functions. There have been several kinds of initiatives aiming at improvement and renewal of construction supply chains, but only few have a track record of consequent and significant successes. Here construction supply chains are approached from an alternative theoretical viewpoint, namely that of the language/action perspective. In this approach, organizations are seen as networks of commitments. Two avenues have been pinpointed for practical application of this approach. First, the process of requesting, creating and monitoring commitments can be facilitated by heuristic models and computer systems, when suitably designed. Secondly, people can learn to communicate for action by developing new sensibility towards the ways their language acts participate in networks of human commitments, and improving their skills in understanding requests, and making commitments. By closer study, existing empirical observations support the idea that a large share of construction supply chain problems are caused by poor articulation and activation of commitments. But would this new approach also facilitate the implementation of a new supply chain management that has proved to be so difficult in practice? In this regard, two initiatives are reviewed. The Dutch initiative to create a framework for communication in large civil engineering projects is first presented and initial experiences from its implementation are discussed. Then, Last Planner implementations are analyzed. By drawing on the concept of small wins, it is concluded that these implementations act as a stimulus for wider changes towards an environment of firm commitments and high trust. The paper ends with a review on research tasks ahead.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Construction supply chain, language/action perspective, small wins
Themes: Subjects / Themes > T Technology > TS Manufactures > TS155-194 Production management. Operations management
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment
Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment > Centre for Built Environment Sustainability and Transformation (BEST)
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings of 9th International Group for Lean Construction Conference.
Refereed: Yes
Depositing User: LJ Koskela
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2010 15:55
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 01:16
References: Arnell, V., Hammarlund, Y., Liedholm, M., and Sverlinger, P.O. (1996) Kvalitetsförbättringar i bygg- och anläggningsprojekt (In Swedish: Quality improvements in building construction and civil engineering projects). Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, Institutionen för byggnadsekonomi och byggnadsorganisation. Report 47. Göteborg. 12 p. Ballard, G. (2000) The Last Planner System of Production Control. Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Engineering of The University of Birmingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Birmingham. Ballard, Glenn & Howell, Gregory (1998) Shielding Production: Essential Step in Production Control. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol. 124, No. 1, pp. 11-17. Beer, M., and Noria, N. (ed.). (2000) Breaking the Code of Change. Harvard Business School Press, Boston. 507 p. Bennett, J., and Ferry, D. (1990) “Specialist contractors: A review of issues raised by their new role in building.” Construction Management and Economics, 8, 259-283. Dietz, J.L.G. (1996) Introductie tot DEMO: Van informatietechnologie tot organisatietechnologie (In Dutch: Introduction to DEMO: From information technology to organization technology). Samsom, Alphen aan de Rijn. 70 p. Dietz, J.L.G. (2001) “DEMO: Towards a discipline of organisation engineering.” European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 128, 351-363. Ekstedt, E., and Wirdenius, H. (1994) “Enterprise Renewal Efforts and Receiver Competence: The ABB T50 and the Skanska 3T Cases Compared.” Paper presented at the IRNOP Conference, Lycksele, Sweden, March 22-25, 1994. 18 p. Habermas, J. (1984) The theory of communicative action: Reason and rationalization of society. Polity press, Cambridge. Higgin, G., and Jessop, N. (1965) Communications in the Building Industry. Tavistock Publications, London. 125 p. Howell, G., and Ballard, G. (1998) Implementing Lean Construction: Understanding and Action. Paper presented at the IGLC-6 conference. Josephson, P.E., and Hammarlund, Y. (1996) Kvalitetsfelkostnader på 90-talet – en studie av sju byggprojekt (In Swedish: Quality defect costs in the nineties - a study on seven building projects). Del I. Report 49. Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, Institutionen för byggnadsekonomi och byggnadsorganisation. Göteborg. 125 p. Koskela, L. (2000) An exploration towards a production theory and its application to construction. VTT Publications 408, VTT, Espoo. March, J.G., and Simon, H.A. (1958) Organizations. John Wiley, New York. Meyerson, D.E., and Fletcher, J.K. (2000) “A Modest Manifesto for Shattering the Glass Ceiling”. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 127-136. Pappas, M. (1999) Evaluating Innovative Construction Management Methods through the Assessment of Intermediate Impacts. A thesis for a Master of Science in Engineering, University of Texas at Austin. Reijswoud, van, V.E., and Dietz, J.L.G. (1999) DEMO Modelling Handbook: Volume 1. Delft University of Technology, Delft. 173 p. (Version 2.0 downloaded from Schaap, H., Nieuwenhuizen, L., Jongedijk, H., Buijs, C., Hamilton, J., and Vroomen, de, A. (2001) “VISI: A Methodology to Standardize Communications in Civil Engineering.” 4th International EUROSIM Congress, June 26-29, 2001. Delft, The Netherlands. Solomon, R.C., and Flores, F. (2001) Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life. Oxford University Press, New York. Taylor, J.R. (1993) Rethinking the theory of organizational communication. Ablex, Norwood. 302 p. Vrijhoef, R. (1998) Co-makership in construction: towards construction supply chain management. MSc Thesis. Delft University of Technology / VTT Building Technology, Espoo. Vrijhoef, R., and Koskela, L. (2000) “The four roles of supply chain management in construction.” European Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 3-4 (6), 169-178. Wegelius-Lehtonen, T., Pahkala, S., Nyman, H., Vuolio, H., and Tanskanen, K. (1996) Opas rakentamisen logistiikkaan (In Finnish: Handbook for logistics in construction). Rakennus Teollisuuden Keskusliitto, Helsinki. Weick, K.E. (1984) “Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social Problems”. American Psychologist, 1 (39), 40-49. Winograd, T., and Flores, F. (1986) Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. Ablex, Norwood. 207 p.

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year