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Measuring systems engineering and project success : an evaluation of systems engineering practices and project duccess in a Dutch civil engineering contracting firm

Berghuis, E. (2018) Measuring systems engineering and project success : an evaluation of systems engineering practices and project duccess in a Dutch civil engineering contracting firm.

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Abstract:In the last decades, developing and sustaining large complex engineering systems have become more challenging (de Graaf, Voordijk, & van den Heuvel, 2016). To facilitate contracting firms in the Dutch construction industry in their ability to deliver these more complex projects, innovative procurement methods based on integrated contracts, using Uniform Administrative Conditions for Integrated Contracts (UAV-ic) such as Design-Build or Design-Build-Maintain, are used by large clients in the Dutch construction Industry (de Graaf, Vormer, & Boes, 2017; Makkinga, de Graaf, & Voordijk, 2018). The transfer of responsibility from clients to contracting firms for the project design creates the demand for contracting firms to control and review the quality of their own work. Design decisions and commitments have a great impact on project life-cycle cost and defective design is a major cause of contract claims and change orders during construction (Andi & Minato, 2003). de Graaf et al. (2016) and de Graaf, Vormer, et al. (2017) argue for a transition to the SE way of working in the Dutch construction industry. Reef Infra, a mid-sized Dutch contracting firm, finds it challenging to increase standardization, independency, and overall performance regarding their SE process and finds it also challenging to collect performance information to SE related tasks. SE is a relative new way of working, which leads to a lot of insecurity (within the organization), struggle and discussion between Reef Infra and their clients and between Reef Infra and their subcontractors. Reef Infra is looking for opportunities to measure their SE performance to find or identify opportunities for improvement. Measuring their SE performance enables them to target underperforming SE tasks. Alongside their wish to improve their SE application, Reef Infra also finds it challenging to collect performance information, specifically regarding SE tasks and how to relate this to common project success categories in terms of budget, schedule and quality. When they are able to quantify this relation, Reef Infra can prove that their control over the SE process contributes to common project success categories and that they can use that information for BVP tenders. To identify solutions for these challenges a research project is conducted. The project is performed to answer the following research question: How can a Civil Engineering Contracting Firm measure their Systems Engineering performance and how do these metrics relate to project success indicators budget, schedule and quality? In this research project, a measurement tool is developed and applied to measure SE performance and project success in terms of budget, schedule and quality. The goal of the research is to assist Reef Infra in their improvement of their SE process by measuring their SE application in projects under UAC-ic. In addition, how SE contributes to achieving project success indicators budget, schedule and quality, which are commonly used as BVP objectives, is also explored. The goal within the research is to advice Reef Infra how they can measure their SE application to improve their SE process and to relate the extent of SE application to project success indicators budget, schedule and quality. A case study research design is applied to develop and apply the measurement tool. Multiple cases were selected according to the one-phase screening approach of Yin (2014). There were two main sources of evidence to fill the measurement tool. First, an extensive document analysis was performed to provide initial results. Afterwards, unstructured interviews were conducted to fill gaps in the results and validate findings. A case study protocol was developed to ensure that within-case results are mutually comparable in the cross-case analysis. Based on the results of the research, the relation between the extent of SE application and project success cannot be determined. Too little data points were gathered. Looking at the graphs (Figure 8, Figure 9 and Figure 10), there is no optimum in the extent of SE application in relation to project performance. It is unclear if a higher or lower extent of SE application could prevent such events from happening. The findings of Honour (2013) and Beasley and O'Neil (2016) cannot be confirmed, because no clear relation cannot be established. Moreover, in the cases many other characteristics or events seem to affect the project success. To eliminate bias of such characteristics on the relation between the extent of SE application and project success, more assessments of projects using the measurement tool have to be conducted. The results do however confirm that the extent of SE application is different in each project. Although, all projects score an average SE score within a range of approximately 10% because the maximum score was 66% and the lowest score was 56%. The results suggest that SE elements are in some projects not applied while in other projects the same SE elements were applied quite substantially. This means Reef Infra does not apply a comprehensive and standardized SE method in their civil engineering projects. There are multiple reasons for the extent of SE application. First, unclear and out of date SE procedures affect the extent of SE application. Second, the level of SE skill and knowledge affected the extent of SE application. Third, Reef Infra is highly dependent on the client for the extent of SE application. Establishing clear SE procedures, enhancing SE skill and knowledge and reducing client dependency could enable the contractor to properly assess the extent of SE necessary to realize project success. A contingency approach to SE in construction projects can prevent over- and underinvestment. Relating SE performance to project success, enables proper recognition of how much SE activity is enough. This aspect must be further explored to establish clear methods for recognition. The approach to SE must be corresponding with the characteristics of the project, otherwise SE does not provide value in the project. Although, the measurement tool developed in the research emphasizes the extent of SE process applied at the project level it does provide the contracting firm with the necessary information to target underperforming SE tasks. Overall, to ensure that the contractor is capable of approach SE as a flexible process and not to overemphasize on SE tools, it is important the contractor must establish clear SE procedures, enhance SE skill and knowledge and reduce client dependency. To conclude, based on the qualitative case study research findings, the SE process framework is applicable to assess the extent of SE application at a civil engineering contracting firm. The output of the measurement tool provide contractors with vital information to improve their SE process. Moreover, three specific factors affecting the extent of SE application are derived from the results. Based on the results no clear relation could be established between the extent of SE application and project success in terms of budget, schedule and quality. However, the findings do suggest when more projects are assessed using the measurement tool a relation can be established and the bias effect of other characteristics and events that also affect project success can be eliminated. Therefore, Reef Infra benefits from further applying the measurement tool to assess the extent of SE application in their projects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Clients:
Reef Infra
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/75088
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