Experience feedback in industrialised house-building : The impact of production strategies

Abstract: Construction companies need to develop processes for experience feedback (EF) and knowledge-sharing in order to improve their performance over time. Industrialised house-building offers strategies for combating problems typical to project-based organisations such as adopting a more product- and process-oriented approach as well as different production strategies. However, few studies have investigated how industrialised house-building companies actually collect feedback experience and use it for EF. Two research questions were asked: How do different types of production strategies in house-building influence the collection of feedback experience, and how do different types of production strategies in house-building influence the utilisation of experience feedback?Based on a qualitative, multi-method research design, four studies were conducted: one survey in 2010 on experience feedback activities within large and medium-sized on-site and off-site house-builders, and three single case studies between 2011 and 2015 on the collection and use of experience feedback in house-building organisations with different production strategies: a firm with a traditional engineer-to-order (ETOED) strategy, another firm with a modify-to-order platform (MTOED), and a third with a configure-to-order platform (CTOED).One way to characterize EF is by the “channels” used to feedback the experience. The building contractor using the traditional ETOED strategy used formal “push” channels in the production phase. The MTOED case utilized similar production phase EF channels to those of the ETOED contractor but with additional design phase “pull” channels. In the CTOED platform, the main EF channel was personal and informal pulling knowledge to the platform developers but there were also formal channels (meetings). Unlike the other studied strategies, the CTOED strategy has no engineering design phase so all the EF channels were oriented towards the production phase and the client.The studies show that in the project-focused ETO context, EF is used for continuous improvement of the project management processes. The later the customer order decoupling point is located, i.e. the more standardised the products become, the more EF focus on product development, with increasing number of EF channels aimed towards the client and the market. The findings suggest that more product-focused industrialized house builders aim their EF channels towards customers and market. It also appears that house-builders using CTOED platforms primarily utilize their EF in production process improvements and product development whereas house-builders using MTOED platforms primarily focused their EF on the use of platform’s assets in the design phase. Presumably, the next step for such builders would be to increase the standardisation of their construction methods. The practical contribution of this thesis is that it could help construction companies to plan and implement their experience feedback processes. The thesis’ main theoretical contribution is its characterisation of EF in relation to the different production strategies used in house-building.