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Title: Understanding the complexity of materials procurement and the role of technology for small and medium sized enterprises in the construction sector
Author: Donyavi, Sohrab
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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Materials can represent up to 70% of the project construction cost, hence, reducing wastage and improving productivity will have major benefits, both in economic terms for the SMEs but also the environment. Purchasing is a fundamental function of materials procurement. It is important for SME managers and owners to have a full understanding of the purchasing process. The research focuses on the process of purchasing materials and its complexity. It identifies the issues arising from the process from the perspective of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and seeks to understand their attitude and behaviour to the use of technology as a solution. Large companies have the capacity and capability to control labour and materials on projects using information and management technologies. However, SMEs represent over 90% of the UK construction sector, and they need help with systems to manage the materials purchasing process, from estimating to site use/storage. This research focuses on the impact of effective materials management on site for SMEs. The literature review and preliminary research showed an absence of system thinking by SMEs. This is mainly due to the organisational structure of the firms and their methods of working, but, most importantly, it is impacted by the lack of resources to systemise the approach, and a lack of feedback and joined-up systems. Past research identified a substantive list of factors in the materials' purchasing process, but lacked consideration of the importance and relative weighting of the issues. Very little of the research in the past has been focused on SMEs. A framework was established to show the sequence, the logical structure and the complexity of the purchasing process. It was based initially on information from the literature review, but later substantiated and enhanced by the on-site observations, semi-structured interviews and the document reviews. The data collection established a ranking of the issues and their occurrence on site. Technology was identified as a possible solution to making the process more effective and a number of mobile technologies were investigated to assess their relevance to, and ease of use by, SMEs in the purchasing process. The technologies were mapped against the framework to assess where they would be most useful and the results "tested" with further interviews with the selected SMEs as well as telephone interviews to a further twenty SMEs. The research revealed the complexity of the purchasing procedures and the challenges faced by SMEs in this important part of the construction process. It identified the issues involved in the process and ranked them using AHP, thus identifying the areas that were less efficient and where improvement was needed. Whilst a number of mobile technologies have proved to be the way forward for many (large) contractors, their applicability and ease of use was not apparent to the selected SMEs in this research. The data analysis showed the r willingness to consider using technologies in the process but mistrust in their effectiveness and affordability, as well as the impact of any training that would be required
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available