Production System Design in Construction

Glenn Ballard1, Lauri Koskela2, Gregory Howell3 & Todd Zabelle4

1Research Director, Lean Construction Institute, 4536 Fieldbrook Road, Oakland, CA 94619. 510/530-8656,, and Associate Adjunct Professor, Construction Eng. & Mgmt. Program, Dept. of Civil & Env. Eng., University of California at Berkeley
2Senior Researcher, VTT Building Technology, Concurrent Engineering, P.O.Box 1801, FIN-02044 VTT, Finland, Phone +358 9 4564556, Fax +358 9 4566251, E-mail
3Executive Director, Lean Construction Institute, Box 1003, Ketchum, ID 83340. 208/726-9989,
4President, Strategic Project Solutions and member, Board of Directors, Lean Construction Institute. 415/533-8494,


Guidelines are proposed for the design of production systems, which are understood to involve both designing and making products. Production system design serves the three goals of production systems: do the job, maximize value, and minimize waste. For each of the latter two, ends-means hierarchies are proposed that progressively answer the question “What should we do to achieve a goal?”, moving from desired ends to actionable means. Production system design extends from global organization to the design of operations; e.g., from decisions regarding who is to be involved in what roles to decisions regarding how the physical work will be accomplished. Previously, project planning has focused primarily on organizational structuring and creation of work breakdown structures that divide the work to be done. We propose to include the production system itself, which has been virtually invisible and taken for granted. Doing so necessarily involves moving from a conception of production solely in terms of transformation of inputs to a wider concept of production that acknowledges the flow and value generation character of production. The paper ends with a discussion of further research needs, originating from the endsmeans hierarchies developed.


Construction, production system, production system design, waste, value, value generation.



Ballard, G. , Koskela, L. , Howell, G. & Zabelle, T. 2001, 'Production System Design in Construction' In:, Ballard, G. & Chua, D., 9th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Singapore, Singapore, 6-8 Aug 2001.

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