An exploration towards a production theory and its application to construction

Lauri Koskela

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

180 Citations (Scopus)


This thesis endeavors to answer to two specific questions. Is it possible to formulate a theory of production? Does such a theory add to our understanding and lead to improved performance when applied to construction? The answer to the first question is sought by reviewing the history of production thinking both from the scientific and the industrial points of view. Historical analysis reveals that three different conceptualizations of production have been used in practice and conceptually advanced in the 20th century. In the first conceptualization, production is viewed as a transformation of inputs to outputs. Production management equates to decomposing the total transformation into elementary transformations, tasks, and carrying out the tasks as efficiently as possible. The second conceptualization views production as a flow, where, in addition to transformation, there are waiting, inspection and moving stages. Production management equates to minimizing the share of non-transformation stages of the production flow, especially by reducing variability. The third conceptualization views production as a means for the fulfillment of the customer needs. Production management equates to translating these needs accurately into a design solution and then producing products that conform to the specified design. It is argued that all these conceptualizations are necessary, and they should be utilized simultaneously. The resulting transformation-flow-value generation model of production is called the TFV theory of production. It is noteworthy that this same new conceptualization also applies to product design and development, as revealed by a historical analysis of this field. But does this explicit theory help us with regard to construction? In various countries, construction has long since suffered from productivity and quality problems. A case study and the results of prior research on contemporary construction show that there are endemic management problems associated with both client decision-making, design management and construction management. An interpretation based on the TFV theory reveals that a significant part of these problems are self-inflicted, caused by the prevailing, limited view on production. Thus, the TFV theory largely explains the origins of construction problems. When initial implementation by pioneering companies of the construction industry is studied it is also clear that methods based on the TFV theory bring manifest benefits. Thus, the TFV theory of production should be applied to construction. The theory explains the problems in contemporary construction, and suggests vastly improved efficiency. The answer to the research questions can thus be summarized shortly. It is possible to formulate a theory of production, which also provides a new theoretical foundation for construction. The resultant TFV theory, even in its emergent state, already provides direction for experimentation and creation of new understanding and capabilities, both regarding construction research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages298
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameVTT Publications
ISSN (Print)1235-0621
ISSN (Electronic)1455-0849


Dive into the research topics of 'An exploration towards a production theory and its application to construction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this