Although the control of variability is a key concern for lean construction, there is a lack of tools for modelling how variability propagates throughout functions. This paper discusses how the Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM) can be useful for this purpose. So far, the FRAM has been used mostly by the resilience engineering community, which is concerned with safety management in complex systems. In order to support this discussion, an example of applying the FRAM to safety inspections carried out by government officers in construction sites is presented. This example draws on sources of data (e.g. participant observation) used by the author in a recent study of systems thinking applied to inspections. The case of safety inspections suggests that the FRAM can encourage managers to appreciate the variability of functions and agents apparently unrelated to the function in which the detrimental effects of variability are visible. Also, results point out that the FRAM might be useful for anticipating the impact of small intentional and non-intentional changes on the functions involved in a construction project.
FRAM, variability, safety inspections, systems thinking