University of Twente Student Theses


Coordination and communication in construction supply chains: a critical incident approach

Olthof, R. (2018) Coordination and communication in construction supply chains: a critical incident approach.

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Abstract:The construction industry faces numerous problems, which hamper construction performance. A substantial part of these problems seems to be caused by the fragmented nature of the industry. To solve them, many authors acknowledge the need for improved coordination and communication practices. However, despite the apparent consensus about the importance of these practices, only little research is performed that clarifies how these concepts work in practice. Therefore, a lack of knowledge exists in regard to how coordination and communication are applied in practice and how they have an impact on construction performance. Based on the identified research gap, this research aims to clarify how coordination and communication are applied over the course of critical incidents, which directly impact construction performance. Therefore, the primary objective is to develop a conceptual model, which provides an in-depth understanding of current practices during the course of critical construction incidents in order to contribute to future improvements. Consequently, the following central research question is formulated: “How do coordination and communication take place during critical incidents within the examined construction supply chains and how do external factors influence this practice?” In order to provide an answer to the central research question this research adopts a grounded approach to explore a single case study through several embedded cases. Data is primarily gathered by observing construction processes on-site and is complemented with deepening interviews and document review. Subsequently, sensemaking strategies were applied to develop the intended conceptual model, which was used to generate comparable results for cross-case analysis. Based on this approach a dynamic coordination process is identified, which is influenced by several external factors. Firstly, based on numerous critical incidents a distinct course of coordination is determined based on three different levels of intervention. The applied level of intervention is determined by the mutual power and interest relations between the parties involved. Often, the party with a dominant interest attempts to enforce a favourable intervention. However, when a lack of power exists parties are required to negotiate in order to undertake interventions. Furthermore, several categories of uncertainty are established, which are considered the main cause of construction incidents. Lastly, it noticed that communication is primarily managed through shared information systems, despite the complexity of managing information processes. The established insights provided by this research are broadly supported by existing theories, but also extend theory by focussing on critical incidents and reveal the dynamic process of coordination within these situations. Furthermore, the developed conceptual model provides a theoretical framework to analyse construction incidents in the future. Considering the practical implications, the gathered insights contribute to the understanding of power and interest relationships and their influence on coordination processes. This contribution might help to develop improved purchasing and relationship management strategies by main contractors. Additionally, the conceptual model might be used as a tool to analyse the risk of potential incidents affecting project performance due to a lack of power to control them. In the end, more research is suggested to further strengthen the findings established by this explorative study and extend this theory by identifying potential relationships between coordination and information exchange systems and the effectivity of interventions. Also, more research can be conducted to study the effect of different relationship management strategies on the effectivity of coordination in construction projects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Construction Management and Engineering MSc (60337)
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