A critical discussion of the effectiveness of production management methods and techniques with reference to the construction industry
Table of Content
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Problems in Production Management Nowadays
- 3 Lean Construction Techniques
- 4 The Last Planner System
- 5 Weekly Work Plan (WWP)
- 6 Increased Visualization
- 7 Daily Huddle Meetings
- 8 5S
- 9 Fail-Safe for Quality and Safety
- 10 Problem Solving – PDCA Cycle
- 11 Kaizen
- 12 Jidoka
- 13 Just-in-time (JIT)
- 14 Cell production
- 15 Business process re-engineering (BPR)
- 16 Building Information Modeling (BIM)
- 17 Conclusion:
- 18 Bibliography
Productions management engrosses the management of the entire process including all the activities involved in the production or manufacturing of a product or/and services. The formal definition of Production management by Murthy (2006) states it as a management function that plans, organizes, coordinates directs, and controls the production process from material supply to processing activities while following a particular production method. Concerning the construction industry, there is a long list of responsibilities that a production manager needs to perform, that is, from hiring designer and contractor to the preparation of contract documents, finalization of the location. Besides, Production management also includes the tasks like land acquisition, procurement and setting up of construction machinery, buying and storing raw materials, and carrying out the construction activities on-site with the help of workforce and construction machinery (Koushi, et al., 2008)
Production management together with technology is the two bases that influence the growth of the construction industry. Despite numerous advancements and innovations in technology that had been implemented in the production projects, yet the effectiveness in the construction industry remains low for the last 40 years. This decline could be witnessed in the USA construction industry that has been declining since 1964. Other countries have also shown similar downfalls like in Japan, the ratio of Yen per Man per Hours reduces from 3714 to 2731 from 1990 to 2004. The major cause for this decline was that although the new technologies adopted do improve the management of the whole construction process, yet it wasn’t able to efficiently decrease the cost of design and construction. For instance, even though the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology has enhanced the efficacy of drawing, but it remains inefficient in reducing design errors that in return originates the call for rework of construction making it complex for construction managers to optimize the construction process while reducing cost (Horman & Kenley, 2014).
Production management undergoes various problems and the greater part is practical that needs to be solved for future growth. Because of these problems, the construction industry is snowed under delays and frequently experience time and cost overrun. According to (Alsehaimi & Koskela, 2009), inefficient project management was a leading and common cause for delay in construction projects. Therefore, the problems particularly related to management should be recognized, and efforts are required to be aimed at generating solutions and more efficient techniques of operation.
The initiation of new production techniques in the construction industry involves revised performance criteria, for instance, value, waste, variability, or cycle time. According to different UK researches, approximately 30% of construction done in 2008 was reworked with an efficiency level of potential labor reaching just 40 to 60%, accidents make up 3 to 6% of the total costs, and a minimum of 10% of materials were wasted. While in Australia, the cost of work revised was reported as being approximately 35% of the whole project costs and contributes to the extent of 50% of the total overrun costs of a project. Hence, in a broader term, an excessive amount of wastes (that may refer to as non-value added activities) is projected to be a part of a construction project and represents a comparatively large share of production cost. The occurrence of a considerable quantity of wastes in construction projects has worn out the overall performance and efficiency of the industry, because of which definite stern actions need to be taken to rectify the existing condition. The below figure demonstrates the waste percentages of time in the manufacturing and construction industries. (Alarcon, 2011)
Hence, it is crucial to driving the construction industry with effective production management techniques and approaches to make the industry capable of overcoming its weaknesses.
Because of the increased waste, the profit margins are continuously decreasing while on the other hand, competition is increasing in the construction industry as more projects are planned every day. Keeping this scenario under consideration, construction contractors are constantly searching for new methods of reducing waste that will eventually increase their profits(Mastroianni & Abdelhamid, 2003). Over time many approaches and techniques were developed, tested, and implemented to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the construction process, but only lean construction techniques prove to reduce, if not entirely get rid of, the non-value-added activities. Since its development in the early 1990s and yielding positive results, construction researchers have been investigating the likelihood of implementing the philosophy of lean production to construction projects. (Graboviy, 2016)
Lean Construction is one of the production management base techniques that allow maximization of productivity through minimizing the waste produced in terms of cost, material, effort, and time during the construction process. (Mossman, 2009)
Koskela (2002), one of the initiators of lean construction, describes lean construction as a method designed for the production system that will minimize the waste produced in the form of time and materials, to generate maximum value. (Koskela, et al., 2002). Lean construction is usually confused as a cost-reducing program or an approach, whereas it is a mode of viewing and performing for the whole organization (Lean Enterprise Institute, 2009). Though defining the limits of the potential of Lean is not possible, yet Womack (2003) states several key principles that help in driving the Lean concept successfully. According to him, to achieve success it is significant to recognize and make a product that attaches VALUE to a customer’s demands to make them satisfied, by meeting the needs of the customers at an exact time and affordable price. Furthermore, to look for the essential steps that assist an efficient production line workflow and for the needless steps that generate waste, and eventually attempt to eradicate the non-value steps that result in disturbance, delay, backflow, or destruction in the workflow. Lastly, Womack considers Lean to be an everlasting process where perfection can be a key factor to force lean thinking by repetitively eliminating consecutive layers of waste as they appeared on the surface and also by continuously improving the quality of the system proactively. (Salem, et al., 2005)
The application of lean production techniques has shown prominent results over the past years. A research carried by Nahmens and Ikuma (2012) shows that the application of Lean production techniques resulted in a reduction of material waste by 64% that have a noteworthy environmental impact and by reducing major safety risks of unwarranted force having an important social impact and a considerable economic impact by decreasing production hours by 31%. although, various evidence of achieving noteworthy benefits of implementing Lean production concepts have been found from numerous countries worldwide, yet some studies (Sarhan and Fox, 2013) illustrate the limited execution of the lean approach over the last two decades specifically in the UK construction industry. A prominent reason that serves to be a barrier in the implementation of the lean practices stated by Sarhan and Fox (2013) is the financially related problems as sufficient financial support is required to encourage the workforce, supply appropriate equipment and hire lean experts to lead both employers and employees in executing the lean concept. Forbes and Ahmed (2011) carried a further study to discover major causes for the employees’ resistance to Lean Construction that consist of fear of the unknown, a refusal to take responsibility, perceived loss of control, and dedication for implementation change. Additional obstruction contains perceived pressure to project manager’s position, lack of knowledge about Lean production technique, insufficient training, and fear of job losses (Forbes & Ahmed, 2011).
The lean production technique is a wider concept and contains many tools, principles, and notions. Among these, the noteworthy tools that could help in making production management effective are:
The Last Planner system is the most completely formed lean construction tool (Ballard 2000). This system of production control highlights the connection between scheduling and production control. (Oakland & Sohal, 1987)
Last Planner System (LPS) is a method that shapes workflow and deals with project unpredictability in construction. The Last Planner is the group or person held responsible for operational planning, from the formation of product design to assist better workflow and production unit control. In the last planner system, the series of implementation sets up a well-organized schedule planning agenda with the help of a pull technique that outlines the flow of work, its sequence, and speed; connect workflow with its required capacity; formulate methods for the implementation of work, and makes communication among trading parties effective.
The last planner system helps to achieve the “Should-Can-Will” approach; where
- “Should” points out the work that is mandatory to be carried out as per schedule requirements.
- “Can” points out the tasks that can actually be achieved as a result of various limitations on the work field.
- “Will” points out the work dedication which will be made after all the hurdles are taken into consideration.
This tool proves to be effective in managing production schedule as compared to traditional procedures who presume approaching more tasks will result in better results and lack considering the difference between what should, can, and will be accomplished. The vital role of the Last Planner tool is to substitute optimistic planning with practical planning by assessing the employee’s performance based on their capability to reliably attain their commitments. (FayekAziz & MohamedHafez, 2013)
Should, Can, and Will are the key terms in Weekly Work Plan. Weekly Work Plan (WWP) is formed based on the real schedule, and the field situation before the weekly meeting. The Weekly Work Plan meeting evolves the weekly schedule, quality problems, safety issues, material needs, construction methods, manpower, accumulation of ready work, and any troubles that can arise in the field. It supports team planning to exchange information and two-way communication on a project proficiently and perfectly.
The increased visualization lean tool involves the communication of the key information efficiently to the workers with the help of placing several visual signs, tags, and labels in the area of the construction site. This will help the workers to keep in mind the important elements like workflow patterns, performance targets, and explicit necessary actions if they see them (Moser & Dos Santos, 2003). Usually, these visual aids consist of signs associated with safety measures, work schedule, and desired quality level.
Daily Huddle Meetings, also known as Tool-box Meetings is a two-way communication that serves to be the vital medium of the everyday huddle meeting process to achieve workers’ involvement. This method involves a concise daily start-up meeting that is to be conducted among the team members giving them a quick status of the work that was already done since the last day’s meeting and what is planned to be done on the present day. (Musengya, 2018)
To increase the motivational level of the employees, awareness of the project along with problem-solving participation is necessary topped up with the required training being provided through other tools. All these things together will help to achieve the employee’s job satisfaction that will provide them job meaningfulness, confidence, and personal growth. (Schwaber 1995).
Within the framework of Lean Manufacturing, 5S is a simple, yet influential, Japanese tool that is designed to organize a workplace in a very organized, hygienic, and safe way. This management tool proves to be quite effective as it helps in increasing an organization’s productivity, work standardization efforts, and assist in visual management(Chandra, 2013).
The implementation of 5S ensures the production unit standardization all the way through its workflow, at all levels of the process. This technique assists in increasing the pace of the workflow; hence promoting advanced levels of production. The 5S tool operates systematically in the course of 5 stages. These 5 stages are named in the Japanese language and are translated into English to form 5 “S” terms (Riley, 2017). These terms are:
- Seiri or, Sort. This is the first step of the 5S that involves the arrangement of all the untidiness and mess inside the place of work while keeping just the main and particularly useful stuff within the work area.
- Seiton or, Straighten. This is the next step of the 5S that includes the process of assembling the messed up things in a well-organized way in an attempt to be utilized according to the principles of ergonomics.
- Seiso or, Sweep. This third step consists of a detailed clean-up of the workplace, the tools that are to be used, all the systems, equipment, and machines that are involved in the production division.
- Seiketsu or, Standardize. This step ensures that all the activities carried out in the first 3 steps are currently standardized properly, as standardization is a vital element of the Lean Manufacturing process; therefore, this phase becomes a critical part.
- Shitsuke or, Sustain. This is the final stage that involves the company keeps up to the standards sustains and conformed to. This helps to make the routine work as the workplace culture.
This tool proves to be effective as it benefits the project by improving safety, increasing productivity, enhancing quality, and setting up-times improvement, reducing lead times, increasing machine uptime, creating space, managing production cycle times, encouraging teamwork, improving employee’s morale, and promoting continuous improvement. (Spoore, 2003).
Poka-yoke devices were introduced by Shingo in 1986 as new components that avoid malfunctioning components from flowing throughout the process. The concept of Failsafe for quality is dependent on the creation of ideas that provide information for potential faults. This approach of the lean technique proves to be effective as it works proactively before the defective pieces are being processed.
The PDCA cycle is a logical and graphical demonstration of how the majority of people have previously solved the existing problems. This tool bounds to consider every activity and job as a distinct and vital part of a process and that every stage of the process has its own customs and following this improvement cycle will eventually put forward a better product/ service to the end customer. The stages of the cycle are:
- PLAN: establishing a plan to attain a target
- DO: enacting the plan
- CHECK: measuring and analyzing the outcomes
- ACT: implementing essential restructuring if outcomes are not as projected.
This production management technique helps in identifying and solving problems right from their root cause and subsequently implement countermeasures along with supervising.
This is another Japanese production management technique whose name is also taken from the Japanese language. This approach is implemented in a scenario where workers are informed of two basic jobs to perform:
- The first is to perform their predefined existing task and
- The second is to come up with new ways and methods of improving the existing job
The concept well-known as “continuous improvement” entails a process where the entire progress and growth in productivity within a company/project, originate from minor improvements carried out by workers constantly. For instance, if a worker saves 2 minutes per day, it will save 10 minutes in a week that could be utilized for value-added activity; consequently increasing the productivity when carried out by all workers.
Jidoka is one of the supporting pillars of the Production System as well as of Lean Manufacturing. this technique encompasses the concepts of built-in quality and includes phenomena like Autonomation, which is adding a “human touch” to the machines in a way that they could perform their tasks routinely but can also stop when things go wrong, in addition to Poka-Yoke or error proofing to avoid defects being formed, accepted or passed on. Jidoka offers the structure to force the rejection of problems and encourages continuous improvement.
A new approach for controlling production management has been applied in many firms known as JIT for minimizing the factors in production waste in form of time, un-allocated space usage, and cost of production. Through the process applied in JIT, items are manufactured according to the requirements of the company rather than making them in advance or extra quantities. JIT was introduced by a team of engineers in the world’s largest manufacturer of automobiles i.e. Toyota. The team introducing JIT was lead by Ohno and they found several wastes occurred during the process of mass production, including extra production, long allocated queues, transportation, in-line automation, extra inventory, relocation of items due to nonmanagement, and products with defects. Although many firms refer JIT and Lean Production to be the same thing and on a real basis they are totally different processes and different techniques. JIT is mainly the process of providing the best focus on the efficiency of the company and Lean production provides extra value to the product of the customer. By introducing JIT in the best possible way, it can minimize many factors producing waste in production like having extra inventory, production overheads, extra storage for inventory, additional efforts required for rectification of faults reducing the cost of error of the product. Moreover, all the departments of the companies should be in-lined for the best level of achievement through the application of JIT. It’s is necessary for all the departments to focus on the methods and rules applied to achieve the best outcome through the JIT system. If not implemented on the true basis, the system of JIT would collapse providing more implications for the company. And by this customers would never rely on the company products, their quality, time management, and the commitments made by the company would go on a total loss basis providing the collapse of the JIT system.
In conventional mode products are manufactured in different areas from one another, where workers would work on their own and have their own responsibility to produce things. In cell production there are different cells each cell having its own team. The workers are skilled to work in a multi-tasking environment where each cell or group is assigned with their particular duties for the production process. This helps in a healthy working environment where workers from every cell get motivated by working in teams which lead to efficiency and sharing of skills within the production process
BPR is an additional management technique which can lead an organization to improve and revise their working process. BPR is a source of motivation through which the client is convinced to introduce better and comparatively proficient processes by which they can increase sales and outcome and on the other side minimize the waste of material, time, and energy. this also helps in achieving an improved product at the end. Hammer and Champy (1993) defined business process reengineering (BPR) as the revision and re-construction of the business processes to attain sufficient changes in quality, services, cost, and time. for some, it is considered as a revival and evolutional change for their organization to help cover the loss whilst on the other hand people reject this strategy as ineffective and risky for their production. According to Jones (1995), the real complexity of this approach is its difficult implementation in the construction industry because it has an uneven and task-based nature. Similarly, Courtney and Winch (2003) made a point that BPR had to be concerned not only with the process of delivery but also with the pattern of what was to be delivered to truly represent eventual value to the client. Today, the Construction industry really needs to reorganize and look into standardization of construction material; the construction industry should be moved from the upper-left corner in a production-process matrix, to the lower-right, which can make the whole construction progression sooner and inexpensive. CIRIA report (1997) defines standardization as the wide use of components, manners, methods, and techniques in which there is regularity and reappearance. For example, Instead of cast-in-situ, pre-cast concrete panels can be encouraged to use in construction activities. That can pave the way for quick and in-time manufacturing and delivery services, which can help in quality improvement, time, and cost-saving and may also help in reducing the quantity of construction wastes production. likewise, BPR can be considered in the debate of standardization of sizes and specifications for doors and windows in similar types of buildings. Items in large numbers and volumes are manufactured and delivered to sites, in less time, less cost, and the manufacturing repetition can gradually improve the quality as well. Anderson (2014) also believes in standardization and its benefits. According to him by ordering parts and materials in large quantities and volumes, common deliveries can be ensured, which will be guaranteed in time operations. Sadly, people caught up in the construction industry feel comfortable with using traditional ways in construction industries. The lack of better understanding and the fear of bringing ‘change’ has become barriers to a successful BPR endeavor. Otherwise, with an adequate approach, the construction industries can be benefited in one way or other.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is another effective technological method designed to decrease waste and save costs at construction projects. This method allows all the team members involved in the project could see and understand the project by utilizing a digital management process that includes a three-dimensional computer-generated image or model of the project comprising all facts. As BIM is based on the latest technology, it can be adopted at different maturity levels based on the financial resources of the project. The concepts of 4D, 5D, and 6D can become part of the BIM depending on the complexity of the BIM models.
As the construction industry worldwide is undergoing a genuine challenge with its post-handover shortcomings, and it is reflected as a systematic element of the industry that leads to high costs of remediation. Creating a three-dimensional model before the real construction of the project not just help in ensuring all aspects of the project design as correct and heading in the right direction without facing any kind of clashes, but it also supports the system to minimize waste production concerning cost and time, beforehand getting on-site (Skanska, 2014). BIM technology is perceived to be important as it indicates the best approach to provide effectiveness and efficiency through the construction industry (Ewen, 2012). This is the reason that the government of the UK has taken few strong steps forward to device the use of BIM all over the construction segment in upcoming years (David, 2012). It appears to be obvious that the future of the construction industry will highly digitalize, and BIM would be the future of design and long-term facility management.
Similar to the production, manufacturing or operational manager of any industry, the construction manager of the construction industry has the same role and responsibilities to be performed and needs to have extensive knowledge and know-how of the production management approaches and strategies. As, it is not just vital but quite a vital duty of a construction manager to attain the definitive goal of creating a better quality final product and simultaneously to minimize the waste production related to time and cost, and that is undoubtedly possible by implementing the production management techniques. Else by following the traditional standards, trends and by suffering the distress of implementing change in the project, the construction industry can never succeed in making a dominant share in the improved industries.
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