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Measuring information flow in the detailed design of construction projects

Abstract

Waste in engineering design has many facets, from partial utilization of the solution space, to wasteful management of design resources, and creation of erroneous and ineffective design documents. In the detailed construction documentation design phase of construction projects with teams comprising multiple independent designers, slow and interrupted information flows lead to significant waste. Applying lean principles, such as reducing batch sizes, cycle times and work in progress inventories, to the management of information flows may improve processes and reduce waste in this phase of the design process, but the lack of a method for measuring the volume, rate and effectiveness of information flow is an obstacle to research. This study proposes measuring the flow of information in the process of detailed design where construction documents are prepared. Measures and indices of flow were formulated based on examination of empirical data compiled by monitoring flows of design information in the detailed design stage of each of fourteen construction projects. Data describing the flows was drawn from the database logs created through practitioners’ use of a project extranet service. Indices for identifying information flow bottlenecks, large batch sizes and accumulation of work in process were computed and validated for four of the projects by comparing them with the results of independent observations of design coordination meetings. An index for measuring rework was also computed but could not be validated. The indices and information flow graphs are intended to assist in identifying faults or bottlenecks in the process either as they happen or in retrospective study, indicating disruptions in the information flow. As such, they are important tools for research of engineering design and may be of practical use in design management if incorporated in future online design management tools.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the architects, engineers and project managers who made the data collection possible and to the referees for their thorough reviews and sound guidance.

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Correspondence to Rafael Sacks.

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Tribelsky, E., Sacks, R. Measuring information flow in the detailed design of construction projects. Res Eng Design 21, 189–206 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00163-009-0084-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00163-009-0084-3

Keywords

  • Construction
  • Design management
  • Information technology
  • Lean thinking
  • Information flow measurement
  • Project management