Production system design (PSD) is one of the core activities of production management. It translates the intended production strategy into a set of decisions. It establishes the structure that will manage different activities, and creates appropriate conditions for control and improvement. The design of production systems should begin at the early stages of product design, including not only on-site production itself but also on suppliers’ and consumers’ processes. In operational terms, a major concern is to devise the layout and the material and information flows in order to create favourable conditions for a more efficient production system. Despite its importance, very little attention is usually given to production system design in the construction industry. This paper discusses the implementation of production system design in complex construction projects, such as hospitals, industrial and commercial buildings. This discussion is based on the findings of two case studies, using a model for production system design devised for low cost repetitive house-building projects as a starting point. Differently from low cost house-building, in complex projects the client requirements are not usually well defined at the beginning of the project. This requires the production system design to be carried out in several stages. Another difference is the large number of subcontractors and suppliers involved and the high degree of interdependence between them. Some prototyping tools were used for reducing uncertainty, and to increase transparency. The main contribution of this paper is to propose the PSD as a way to cope with certain features of complex construction projects. It proposes the scope of decisions involved, and the requirements that are necessary to perform this task effectively in such projects. The results indicated that production system design can potentially improve the performance of production systems in such projects, and improve the understanding of the impacts of client requirements and design changes.
Production system design, complex projects, production management