Analysis of Communication Patterns During Construction Production Planning

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Date
2012-02-24
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

The construction industry ranks high in the number of occupational incidents due to the complex and interdependent nature of the tasks. However, construction firms using lean construction have reported better safety performance than the rest. The situation reflects the limitation of traditional planning methods used in construction firms focusing on project level planning, at the expense of production level planning. Lean construction involves participants in the formal production planning process to minimize variability in workflow thus reducing probability of incidents. Considering the involvement of various participants in the production planning process, this research study hypothesized that communication levels afforded by participants during formal production planning have a positive impact on safety performance.

The goal of this research study was to understand the role of communication in the formal production planning process and its impact on safety performance. A case study approach was adopted for analyzing two projects, one following formal production planning and another following traditional project planning. Weekly subcontractor coordination meeting was selected as the unit of analysis. Data has been collected using direct observations, open-ended interviews, and examination of archival documents. For this study, the independent variables were categories of communication and dependent variable was recordable incidence rate (safety performance). Communication data was analyzed using Robert Bales' Interaction Process Analysis.

Based on the analyses, the participants involved in formal production planning demonstrated: more sensitivity and higher degree of control by frequently providing suggestions/opinions, more enthusiasm in exchange of commitments, sincerity by declining inquiry for commitments in case of conflict of interest, and greater involvement by engaging in frequent dialogues with others. In addition, participants involved in production planning adopted a proactive approach toward safety performance by ensuring that safety was considered while preparing production plans, thus helping improve awareness. The findings indicated a better safety record by the project following formal production planning in comparison to the other project.

The research study provides a "meso" level understanding of the role of communication among project participants during formal production planning, and indicates that production planning might have a beneficial impact on safety performance.

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Keywords
safety performance, lean construction, project planning, production planning, communication
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