Guidelines for Managing Physical Flows in Construction Sites

Thais da C.L. Alves1 & Carlos Torres Formoso2

1M.Sc., Research Assistant, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Building Innovation Research Group (NORIE), Brazil, e-mail:
2Ph.D., Associate Professor, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Building Innovation Research Group (NORIE), Brazil; Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, USA e-mail:


The process model that has been mostly used in construction management tends to neglect the importance of flow activities in production. By contrast, the New Production Philosophy (Lean Production) states that both conversions and flows should be considered in production management. While the conversion management aspect of production seems to be relatively well defined, further research into the management of physical flows is required. This paper proposes some guidelines for managing physical flows in construction sites based on case studies carried out in small sized building companies in the South of Brazil. In this research work, physical flows refer to both material and production unit flows. The authors propose that decision making concerned with such flows should be part of the production planning and control process. This means that the flows of people, equipment, and materials must be explicitly and systematically planned and controlled, considering distinct hierarchical decision making levels. It is expected that these changes in production planning and control will increase process transparency and, at the same time, will create conditions for reducing variability in site conditions and thereby reduce waste.


Physical flows, process transparency, production planning and control, lean construction



Alves, T.D.C. & Formoso, C.T. 2000, 'Guidelines for Managing Physical Flows in Construction Sites' In:, 8th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Brigthon, UK, 17-19 Jul 2000.

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