Capacity Utilization and Wait Time: A Primer for Construction

Gregory A. Howell1, Glenn Ballard2 & Jerome Hall3

1Executive Director, Lean Construction Institute, Box 1003, Ketchum, ID 83340. Ph: 208/726-9989, Fax: 707 248-1369.
2Associate Adjunct Professor, Construction Eng. & Mgt. Program, Dept. of Civil & Env. Eng., University of California at Berkeley, and Research Director, Lean Construction Institute, 4536 Fieldbrook Road, Oakland, CA 94619. 510/530-8656,
3Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1351. Ph. 505.277.1418,


The relationship between capacity utilization, wait time and variation is well understood in traffic and industrial engineering where the relationships are stated as fundamental laws. This paper will explain this concept and its implications for construction, and will challenge the current view that time and cost must always be in tension. The paper will show that reducing variation in work flow will improve performance and that the resulting improvement can be applied to reducing duration and/or cost.


Capacity Utilization, Cycle Time, Last Planner, Littleā€™s law, Production Management, Productivity, Throughput, Variability, Wait Time



Howell, G.A. , Ballard, G. & Hall, J. 2001, 'Capacity Utilization and Wait Time: A Primer for 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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