An improvement strategy for the defects and rework management process within an SME: an action research approach
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Irish construction reported strong growth towards the end of 2013, after years of industry recession. Following a property led economic collapse which started in 2007 construction output fell by circa eighty percent. Many construction companies went out of business; those remaining are strongly focused on their bottom line and increasing efficiency to ensure survival. Defects and rework, common in construction, are both wasteful and a cost that can be avoided, thus presenting an obvious target for improvement. A regional SME main contractor collaborated on a project to improve the efficiency of their current processes for the identification, management and elimination of defects and rework in their supply chain. An action research strategy was employed on several field projects, to investigate the problems faced by the company in this area and to develop an improvement plan. Action research involves a five stage problem solving cycle (1) problem diagnosing; (2) action planning; (3) action taking; (4) evaluation of results; (5) specification of learning. Action planning elements emerging from the cycle (at stage 2) are presented here. They are very wide ranging and include; process standardisation; sign off procedures; use of ICT as a collaborative platform; freeware information repository; cost modelling; benchmarks for improvement; planning workshops; root cause analysis of defects and subsequent development of learning materials. Preliminary results indicate a sophisticated understanding of the defects and rework process across the supply-chain, but a general lack of forum and opportunity to contribute to improvement. The results indicate a wide diversity of abilities and resources in SMEs, including human, capital and technological, meaning one size fits all solutions to efficiency improvements are difficult to attain. Prescriptions thus need to be both simple to implement and flexible. The results here offer detailed reflective insight into best practice in designing improvement plans of this nature.
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