The construction industry is a key sector in a country’s economy, which handles extensive assortments of services such as construction, alteration, and repair of structures. In Japan, for instance, the industry absorbed 9.4% of the labour population by 1990. While in the US, the sector has realised close to $900 billion in revenue annually. Severe challenges have engulfed the industry concerning constant changes in designing, building and maintaining new structures. The complexity and dynamism of the challenges require in-depth creativity in the management system such that work processes in the industry get proper coordination. Contractors, engineers, builders, and architects have to get solutions to the challenges by applying operations management effectively. Reconstruction of Cleveland Water System in Ohio presented a design and construction challenge of providing water at lowest prices (Baldwin Water Works 2011). In addition, project management helped in keeping the facility operational by providing benchmarks and tools that made the project successful.
Operations Management (OM) is an area of management that touches on design and control processes of production and supply chains. The entire process involves acquiring, developing and utilising resources in order to meet clients’ needs. OM has provisions that range from deliberate to planned operational levels. Issues of representative strategy determine the size and setting of manufacturing firms, decide on the structure of telecommunication networks, and devise technological supply chains (Slack, Chambers, & Johnston 2013). On the other hand, tactical issues inculcate methods of project management, modalities of selecting and replacing equipment, and plant structure and eventual layout process. Issues of operations involve production controls and policies of managing equipment. March (2009) holds that operations management deals in conversion of inputs such as labour and materials into outputs, which can take the form of services and goods. This field manages and directs technical functions of an association, especially those in the manufacturing, development and production industries. Clearly, OM manages resources intended for production and manufacturing of products in respective industries (Rao 2010). The process ensures that industries deliver products and services since it is the key reason for their existence.
The financial aspect of management provides pieces of information that are critical in making strategic cost-effective decisions and managing financial properties. The obligation of the marketing utility is to communicate to the firm on clients’ tastes and preferences after conducting market research on their satisfaction levels on varied services and products (Boer 2003). Operations management, therefore, has the responsibility of coordinating activities between the core departments of an organisation in order to contribute to effective production of goods and services to clienteles. Operations managers can work in diverse fields such as construction, retail, healthcare, hospitality, and insurance amongst others, and ensure stability and growth of such enterprises (Harris 2006). These managers ensure that the running of organisations must be efficient and smooth in order to meet the clients’ needs. For example, in the service-based construction industry, operations managers pay great attention on clients’ satisfaction and management of available human resources.
This branch of management improves process performance through process mapping that helps in delivering products and services in beneficial stepwise processes. A process map gives a clear comprehension of the steps and processes for all stakeholders by making the areas of disconnect fissionable (Schoppman 2013). The maps also help in evaluating how business operations occur with the intention of eliminating inefficiencies in the process of assessment. Therefore, every step and process ought to have the process maps to ensure smooth flow of operations in the industry. For example, steps identification of each process can help in taking corrective measures in case some activities fail to take place. The process map indicates durations and expectations from each stage; for instance, 3 days for supplying invoice to resident engineers and 8 days for supplying invoice to divisional administrators (Green 2001). Operations managers schedule and plan for construction projects and use them in managing such projects. Development of a baseline schedule marks the outset of a project where operations managers involve the inputs of field managers in establishing the progress of the schedule (Burleson, Haas, & Stanley 1998). The move helps in using general contract and subcontracts in governing the project. Besides, managers use such information to allocate resources after evaluating different considerations like crew balances and workspace constraints. Manifestly, OM enables construction managers to know the sources of their funds through the analysis of cash-flow distribution channels.
Risk management at the construction sites are essential in enhancing the overall safety of labourers (Griffith, Stephenson, & Watson 2000). Through operations management, managers are able to identify and manage inherent risks within the construction industry. Employees’ productivity relies on the guarantee of their safety and well-being at the workplace (Chase, Aquilano, & Jacobs 2000). In this process, OM adheres to the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in their respective country of operation. Since construction is an essential activity for the growth of a nation’s economy, minimising wastes in the system is also a necessity (Voss 1995). A review of a case study on the construction of a 380-meter steel and concrete bridge by Hidden Critical Paths (HCP) reveals the unique risk management awareness that helped in covering the possible risks. The project manager had no management alternative that could have prevented the hidden risks in the project. In another project, building an 18-storey office tower presented numerous risks in which the HCP Deep Schedule Analysis identified several exit strategies as ways of managing potential risks. The management focused on the identified paths that contained 254 tasks in order to prevent hindrances to timely completion of the project. HCP brainstorms on possible risks that can occur within the schedule, and then formulates a risk mitigation plan that stipulates how to manage too risky situations (HCP Case Studies n.d.). Therefore, project management helps in identifying whether a project is extremely risky in order to put in place necessary mitigation measure in the plan.
According to job method as a production process, a construction industry dealing in large construction projects falls under complex or high technology jobs. There are major management challenges that accompany such high technology jobs and an effective solution to them is project management (Kumar 2013). A construction manager has to ensure that there are clear definitions of objectives of the project control, indicating the progress stages, implications, and dates for the achievement of such objectives. For a construction manager to achieve a smooth and effective flow of production, he/she must prepare a pre-production strategy, which will ensure that the purchase and delivery of resources as well as recruitment of competent personnel are done in time (Production process n.d.). Improving flow production necessitates for continuity of demand for the services so that the flow line can continue working with minimal interruption. In this aspect, construction managers will make contractors and subcontractors to cope up with different responsibilities, work on a single piece contract at any given time, and collectively work towards achieving a specific goal, hence improving gratification levels among workers. An analysis of the process of constructing the 18-storey office tower revealed strong confidence from investors given that the project manager of the construction firm rallied contractors and workers towards solving a common issue. In addition, both investors’ and HCP’s project managers focused on their areas of specialization to help eliminate the challenges that could have jeopardized the planned completion of the project. Contractors and developers will treat each contract as a specific job, with specific clients who require different services for overall satisfaction. Job method can improve production process, as clients can easily change their needs in the course of construction as opposed to flow method where the processes are continuous and linked to each other.
Given the high production volumes at such construction sites, construction managers can also organise the processes such that batch methods become applicable. The process has various divisions for all tasks in which each operation completes its batch before performance of the subsequent procedure. Even though this technique requires high set up costs and involves frequent alterations in set ups, it enhances specialisation of labour within the construction industry (Production – Types of Production Method n.d.). Within the construction sites, equipment utilisation is necessary in eliminating unnecessary purchases of equipment. All the purchased equipment will be used during the construction process. The method is suitable in construction industry as there are numerous steps of production from land clearance, material assembling, construction design and layout, and labour management amongst others. Departmentalisation of services, therefore, boosts skills concentration hence increasing overall output (Production – Types of Production Method n.d.). On the other hand, critical analysis reveals higher chances of poor flow of work in case of substantial differences in the production processes. A construction manager has to align all the processes in optimal sizes in order to enhance uniformity. The alignment of processes into uniform sizes removes build-ups that may derail work progress at the construction sites, as the completed batches will not wait for their turn to go to the subsequent processing phase. Cincinnati Gas and Electric’s Zimmer nuclear plant project used the batch process in construction even without having overseen construction of a prototype. The Zimmer project team included owner utility, contractor, project manager (CM), and architect-engineer (A/E) who ensured that different parts of the plant were completed in batches. The Biomedical Research Building at Oregon Health & Science University also falls under the batch production method. The contractors had to build the structure in phases in order to prevent disruptions to operations at the hospital. At the same time, Hoffman had to create an exceptional system to assist in eliminating ‘logjams’ at construction sites after understanding the congestion challenge within the campus.
Construction managers can apply flow methods to eliminate the problem of resting or idling production. In addition, work completion rate is higher than in the first two techniques hence adding value to the production process. In this method, once task processing is complete at a given stage, it does not hesitate to move to the next stage, as there is no delay in waiting for batch processing (Ranasinghe & Ruwanpura 2012). Construction managers have to ensure that each stage must be of equal length in order to improve demand predictability and consistency. When demands are substantially unceasing, there will be minimal instances of stock build-ups. In addition, developers have to make sure that there is timely delivery of materials, as this prevents the closure of the construction project due to unavailability of required materials. Considerable planning is necessary in this technique in order to realise quality service provision and product delivery at completion (Smith 1995). Continuous flow technique helps in large-scale fabrication of products.
Applying the lean construction principles in the construction industry can improve flow method as a production process. According to Egan (1998), lean construction ensures continuous delivery of high value to customers given that clients in the construction industries can walk through the site when work is in progress. Similarly, flow production process works toward continuity in products delivery. Lean construction as a productivity tool for improving flow method eliminates wastes and increases profits as well as meeting the needs of their clients (Lean Construction 2013). In specifying all the requirements and responsibilities of workers, construction managers improve the usability of the available resources. Large construction projects using lean production process reduce misuse of resources as idleness of labour and resources are extremely minimised. Just as sigma six operates in a way of increasing visualisation, lean construction tool communicates essential information to employees at the work site using labels and signs (Ballard & Howel 1998). Moreover, the tool designs and integrates different phase schedules that are effective in enhancing safety and quality thus preventing destructive outcomes. This approach underscores the need for reliability in scheduling and delivery of high value products and services to respective clients. In Japan, the manufacturing industry, particularly Toyota, reported large amounts of success in 1990s using the lean production tool. The adoption of the tool in the construction industry uses the Last Planner System (LPS) in which promotion of all lean ideas is mandatory (Turner 1993). Since lean production eliminates wastes, non-value adding activities, and cut outs of the system, the flow production process will highly be transparent. Transparency and integrity forms core values of building trust and confidence to clients. In the case of building the 18-storey office tower, project managers identified and addressed different technical matters using the schedule as ways of improving project integrity. Production of intermediate materials at constant rates is effective in increasing certainty and optimisation of work into smaller sections. An implementation tool like LPS accentuates on the significance of the connections that exist between production control and scheduling as means of completing construction projects (Ballard & Howel 1998). Using LPS in flow method shapes workflows in the industry, thus increasing task completion rates and overall visualisation of project’s qualities. In the construction of the 27-storey fox tower, the Last Planner Technique that Hoffman contractors used increased the completion rate as opposed to old-fashioned slip form construction. This technique enhanced safety during the erection of subsequent cores. The challenge with the technique was that contractors had to pour concrete continuously.
Large construction projects produce wastes that construction managers must devise ways of preventing them. Construction, demolition, and land clearing debris (CDL) that comes from the mentioned project require salvaging, recycling, and complete prevention (Formoso, Isatto, & Hirota 1999). Removing valuable and reusable construction resources prior to demolishing structures constitute salvage. In large construction projects, wood, cardboard and gypsum wallboard are highly likely to be the main eco-friendly materials that remain after work completion. The reduction strategy identifies potential wastes at the constriction designing stage and devises effective and efficient prevention processes. After identifying how to prevent waste, a contractor goes further to identify salvageable wastes for donation, or reuse in the current or another scheme (Fewings 2013). These techniques are effective in reducing costs at which contractors will dispose waste materials. Besides, firms that give priority to waste management market themselves to numerous clients who have great interest in participating in programmes that keep the environment green. By recycling and preventing waste materials, contractors are reducing depletion of natural resources, reducing greenhouse gases and creating less pollution due to reduced manufacturing emissions (Bahamon & Sanjines 2010). The James Dolliver Building in Washington is a case example of minimising waste from the environment. The building restoration project was able to diverted over 140,000 pounds of debris from landfills and recycled. When contractors identify potential sources of waste during the design stage, waste generation during actual construction is highly mitigated. Additionally, developers can ensure that they use the same size of materials as were in the old structure in order to increase the rates of reuse (Laquatra & Pierce n.d.). During remodels in large construction projects, there are always wastes that come from the inflexible and inadaptable design spaces.
When contractors and developers consider the values of all resources used in large construction projects, they can easily manage wastes in projects, as other resources can have high value upon reuse at the site or off the site, thus deciding to sell or donate such materials to other building merchants or parties (Atkin 2003). Over 4,500 tonnes of materials were recycled during demolition of two buildings at the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). For this project, the waste reduction rate stood at 96%. W.K. MacNamara Demolition Company that was the lead contractor in this project helped in disposing unwanted office equipment, such as blackboards and desks to the Cambridge school system. The move helped in reusing equipment that could have required additional storage cost. Construction firms that salvage building materials reduce their purchasing costs since they can offset deconstruction costs using these funds. In construction projects, packaging generates most debris from sites, hence the need for reuse in other projects (Levy 2010). Among the varied ways of recovering wastes, deconstruction in large construction sites is the best selection given that it removes large proportion of the building if the process is carried out prudently in the antithesis way of its construction (A guide to waste audits and reduction work-plans for construction and demolition projects 1995). The reuse of materials in other places is not only a waste management technique in large construction projects, but also a cost saving strategy for large projects undergoing remodelling (Cook & VanDerZanden 2011). Reuse and salvage relieve contractors from cost of storage as some projects may lack storage spaces.
Recycling is also a technique that helps in managing wastes from large construction projects. Rubbles that are not reusable or salvageable can go through this technique, thus reducing disposal costs (Bielefeld 2009). Such debris can cause soil pollution from landfills in which wastes are buried. In this process, the use of source-separated recycling facilities can assist in separating materials like drywall, wood, and metal in different drop boxes upon generation. A specific construction waste management plan is effective in eliminating CDL materials. Construction firms that intend to gain competitive edge over their competitors in the market continue to use this technique both in large and small construction, demolition, and renovation projects since it is the easiest option in construction projects (Construction 2003 2003). The removal of such debris helps in conserving space in existing landfills, assisting communities and contractors in complying with local policies like salvaging objectives and mitigating transportation effects of raw materials on the environment (Levy 2010). Developers, architects, and contractors must ensure that a waste management plan is in place when engaging in large construction projects. The region of West Bank Palestine introduced a pilot project on solid waste management with the assistance of Japan International Cooperation Agency. The agency has been promoting waste management methods of reduce, reuse, and recycle in construction sites by developing waste disposal sites using semi-aerobic landfill methods (Environmental Management n.d.).
In conclusion, the construction industry, just like the manufacturing industry, requires proper coordination of services within and outside the workstations. Contractors have to apply this management system in their management of resources and labour for effective output. From the essay, lean production is effective in offering quality service to clients in the construction industry. Markedly, it can easily improve the flow production in improving trust and reliability among clients in order to gain competitive advantage in the market. Waste management also remains a significant operation within this economically profitable sector. Current requirements and activities by environmental organisations are worthwhile ventures that all sectors of the economy must strive to minimise waste production.
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