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Flexibility strategies for engineer-to-order construction supply chains

Gosling, Jonathan 2011. Flexibility strategies for engineer-to-order construction supply chains. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

Product proliferation as a result of meeting ever increasing customer demand preferences is well documented. In addition, customisation has been promoted as a source of competitive advantage. Despite these factors, most of the published research in operations and supply chain management has neglected the needs of the engineer-to-order (ETO) sector, where each product, or project, is designed for the needs of a specific customer. This thesis investigates definitions, models, concepts and strategies for the ETO supply chain structure. In particular, it ETO supply chains are researched within the specific context of the construction sector. The high levels of uncertainty associated with such supply chains presents an array of challenges for organisations in the sector. This thesis focuses on methods to identify and categorize uncertainty, and the types of flexibility that can be developed to mitigate such uncertainties. The importance of good 'pipeline management' is also highlighted, which is an area that is lacking in the construction management literature. Initially, the ETO supply chain is defined in relation to five other 'structures', which describe the flow and control mechanisms of products throughout different supply chains. A key defining characteristic is that the 'decoupling point' is located before the design stage. A structured literature review is then undertaken, which integrates construction supply chain research with wider ETO research. Construction and ETO bodies of knowledge have largely evolved in isolation, within different disciplines, academic communities and journals. This thesis integrates these bodies of knowledge. A critical realist stance is adopted in the thesis, and a range of research methods are utilised within a multiple case design. The empirical research is structured in two phases. Firstly, case studies are undertaken in the construction industry. Three units of analysis are specified in the case research: network co-ordinators, projects and supplier pipelines. In total, the case investigation involves two 'network co-ordinators', five projects and twelve 'supplier pipelines', across two ETO construction systems. Secondly, six evaluation interviews are undertaken, using participants from a range of ETO construction industries. Flexibility is identified as an important strategic capability for ETO supply chains, and a conceptual model for supply chain flexibility is developed and investigated. A four step route map, which brings together different elements of the thesis, is a key output from the research, and provides a practical guide for practitioners to follow when considering flexibility strategies. The overall findings suggest that by becoming more flexible ETO construction supply chains can mitigate some of the uncertainties experienced, but this requires due consideration of supply chain uncertainties, pipeline management, and the correct types of flexibilities vis-a-vis collaborative arrangements. A contribution is made to the fields of uncertainty and flexibility within the context of ETO construction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Centre for Advanced Manufacturing Systems At Cardiff (CAMSAC)
Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
ISBN: 9781303196157
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 05:52
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54426

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