The Flow of Work in Construction: A Conceptual Discussion

Bo Terje Kalsaas1 & Trond Bolviken2

1Associate Professor, Dr Ing, Faculty of economics and social sciences, Department of working life and innovation, University of Agder, 4846 Grimstad, Norway, Cellular +47 97082582, e-mail:
2Director, Business Development and Strategy, Veidekke Entreprenør AS, P.O. Box 506 Skøyen, N-0214 Oslo, (Veidekke Entreprenør AS is a Norwegian subsidiary of Veidekke ASA, one of the major Scandinavian construction and real-estate-development companies)


The purpose: To review the term ―flow‖ in production conceptually. The paper is a step towards fulfilling an ambition to find a way of measuring flow (of work) in construction in a manner that does not destroy the intuitive quality of the term, and of measuring flow as directly as possible. Research method: Theoretical and empirical exploration. Research findings: Flow is a construct widely used in different disciplines. It has a strong intuitive appeal in terms of meaning and experience, but it is not easily defined in relation to the operational level of production. The lean construction community seems to take a casual attitude to the concept of flow even though much hinges on it in this area of knowledge. In order to develop a more precise concept of flow in construction, and one that is geared towards measurability, we suggest building on Shingo‘s distinction between process and operation, and that, for example, a clear distinction be made between conditions for flow and the flow as such. Main contribution: The relevance of the paper is that it will help unpack the concept of flow as it applies to the construction industry.


Lean Construction, Production theory, Flow, Measurement



Kalsaas, B.T. & Bolviken, T. 2010, 'The Flow of Work in Construction: A Conceptual Discussion' In:, Walsh, K. & Alves, T., 18th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Haifa, Israel, 14-16 Jul 2010. pp 52-62

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