Process Benefits From Use of Standard Products – Simulation Experiments Using the Pipe Spool Model

Iris D. Tommelein1

1Professor and Vice Chair of Instruction, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, 215-A McLaughlin Hall, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1712, Phone +1 (510) 643-8678, FAX +1 (510) 643-8919,


Construction materials management and supply chain management are challenging not in the least because of the sheer number and variety of types of materials being assembled in any one project. Uniqueness of materials increases system complexity. This raises the question addressed in this paper: How may the use of increasing numbers of a standard product affect production system performance? To answer this question, we build on the pipe-spool model with ‘matching problems’ that was presented at the IGLC in 1997 but we study parameters that are different from those studied previously to illustrate how management practices may affect a production system’s behavior. Specifically, we show how the use of standard products alleviates the matching problem. Computer-based discrete-event simulation is known to be a useful tool to describe how lean systems may be designed and metrics applied to analyze their performance. Accordingly, we use simulation experiments to illustrate the relationship between the use of various numbers of standard products and process execution. As shown, small numbers of standard products result in some reduction of the project duration, but increasing numbers benefit the system disproportionately more. Using lessons learned from this experiment combined with other observations based on theory and practice, we provide directions for follow-on research and recommendations for managers to design their project-based production systems by exploiting product standardization opportunities.


Lean construction, variability, product standardization, process modelling, materials management, supply chain management, discrete-event simulation, pipe, piping system, process plant, industrial construction, off-site fabrication



Tommelein, I.D. 2006, 'Process Benefits From Use of Standard Products – Simulation Experiments Using the Pipe Spool Model' In:, 14th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Santiago, Chile, 1-. pp 177-188

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