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WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTION IS CONSTRUCTION?



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What Kind of Production is Construction WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTION IS CONSTRUCTION Glenn Ballard1 and Greg Howell2 ABSTRACT Applicability of lean principles to construction might seem to require that construction s differentiating characteristics be softened or explained away This is the strategy employed by those who advocate making construction more like the manufacturing from which lean thinking originated Following that line of thought successive waves of implementation would leave ever smaller remainders that are not yet reduced to manufacturing and consequently not yet capable of being made lean This approach offers tremendous opportunity for reducing the time and cost of constructed facilities However for our part we are interested in that remainder in understanding its peculiar characteristics and in learning how to make it lean Our interest is founded on the belief that construction is a fundamentally different kind of production i e that there is an irreducible remainder We also suspect that learning how to make construction lean will help show the way to the manufacturing of the future Manufacturing is becoming more like construction Far from being the most backward in our view construction can be among the leading edge industries in lean thinking Adopting a single minded strategy of transforming construction into manufacturing would be precisely the wrong thing to do This paper explains the need to develop lean thinking for dynamic construction and lays the groundwork for a subsequent paper Implementing Lean Construction in which these strategies are further developed KEY WORDS Construction production theory uncertainty strategy lean thinking 1 2 Lecturer at U C Berkeley Research Director for the Lean Construction Institute ballard ce berkeley edu Adjunct Professor at Boise State and Virginia Tech Executive Director of the Lean Construction Institute ghowell micron net Proceedings IGLC 98 Ballard and Howell INTRODUCTION What we call construction covers a



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