Application of flow principles in the production management of construction sites
This thesis is concerned with the improvement of construction practices by studying the application in the sector of some core principles underlying current production management theories. The research is motivated by the recognition in recent literature that the best production practices world-wide have a common core. The core principles investigated in this research are the "reduction of cycle time", "reduction of variability", "increase of transparency" and "build of continuous improvement into the process". The fundamental rationale underlying these principles is the concept of flow where production is seen as composed of waiting, transporting, inspecting and transformation (processing) activities. According to this concept, transformation activities are the only ones that actually add value. Hence, all other activities should be reduced or eliminated from the flow whilst increasing the efficiency of transformation activities. The assessment of construction practices against the theory was carried out through six case studies, based in England and Brazil, and a complementary meta-case. Cross-case study analysis showed that construction already applies all heuristic approaches relating to the flow principles under study. However, the intra-case study analysis revealed a serious lack of integration among the literal replications identified in each of the case studies. Integration of practices matching the theory is critical since the evidence suggests that there is a correlation between production performance and the level of integration among literal replications. An additional case study investigated the issue of how to implement these principles in the practice of construction. The interaction with the host company happened through an Action Learning set supported by the Revans Centre for Action Learning and Research. The experiment showed that a combination of both "push" and "pull" learning seems to be an appropriate approach for introducing the principles in study in the construction sector. Top management positive support during "gestation" period was the most important factor for motivating people to "pull" the learning after the initial 'push' learning exercise.