Industrialised timber frame housing : managing customisation, change, and information

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå tekniska universitet

Author: Max Bergström; [2004]

Keywords: Träbyggnad; Timber Structures;

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to develop an increased understanding of industrialised timber frame housing (timber frame housing construction fully or partially conducted in a controlled environment utilising industrial processes and machinery). Of specific interest is how industrialised timber frame housing companies manage customisation, change, and information. Three single case studies (at a medium-sized industrialised timber frame housing company), one multiple-case study, and one survey were conducted. The first single case study investigates how production can benefit from integrating a customer-oriented design and production. The second single case study illustrates the shift towards an enterprise resource planning (ERP) approach through a change process. The third single case study describes the ERP system implementation. The multiple-case study investigates the prospects and pitfalls among four small and medium-sized industrialised timber frame housing companies that manufacture complex products utilising advanced prefabrication. The survey, conducted among the vast majority of industrialised timber frame housing companies in Sweden, presents the industry structure and investigates the benefits and disadvantages of ERP. The results demonstrate that matching customer requirements and an industrialised building system is facilitated through product and process development. Other findings suggest that ERP can meet the needs of industrialised timber frame housing, promote an organisation to be re- engineered through comprehensive change, and act as a driver for a more efficient internal and external supply chain. However, a lack of history regarding information technology (IT) systems for production processes and the timing of the system selection in the overall ERP adoption are both critical for the ERP system implementation outcome. With no previous history of IT systems for production processes, an ERP system implementation is a big step even if it is carefully conducted. Industrialised timber frame housing has increased in popularity on the market over the last years. An important reason for this is the increased customer focus. However, blind customer focus leads to poor utilisation of resources. By balancing customer orientation with internal efficiency, achieving an effective construction process seems possible. Communication between different actors in the construction process, finding a reasonable level of customer focus, and capacity limitations are current problem areas with the potential for improvement. Possible ways of improving the construction process are an increased integration between actors, a gradual increase in IT support, and finding the balance between project and process orientation. The survey demonstrates low ERP usage in industrialised timber frame housing with a low degree of strategic importance, while there are operational and managerial benefits. The results also show the potential of the ERP approach for industrialised timber frame housing, while its use is favoured by an increased maturity in IT. The overall results show that customer orientation, change, and information management are important ingredients in industrialised timber frame housing. Customer orientation can act as a driver for change and for improved information management. Changes in business processes are needed to facilitate customisation and information management. Information management has a key role in the entire construction process to facilitate customisation, while the need of efficient information management can act as a driver for change.

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