Supply chain implications of concurrent engineering

International Journal of Physical
Distribution & Logistics
Management, Vol. 30 No. 7/8, 2000,
pp. 566-597.
# MCB University
Press, 0960-0035
Supply chain implications of
concurrent engineering
C.J. Anumba, C.E. Siemieniuch and M.A. Sinclair
Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
Keywords Supply chain, Information systems, Organizational design, Simultaneous engineering
Abstract One way in which the manufacturing and construction industries are moving is to
adopt the philosophy of concurrent engineering (CE), better utilising the expertise of other
companies in the supply chain. This paper draws on the results of several previous studies to
discuss from a conceptual rather than an empiric point of view some ergonomics issues involved
in CE from the perspective of supply chains. It outlines some generic attributes, and discusses
some concepts of federated control systems within supply chains. The implications of these for
information flows and the management of distributed knowledge within supply chains are then
discussed. A key issue that arises from this is the need for trust in individuals external to the
company if the CE philosophy is to work effectively. The paper then discusses the implications of
this for the design of roles within the CE workgroup, concluding that the principles of sociotechnical design for roles are appropriate for the design of these roles, ensuring that they have the
right attributes for trustworthiness. This provides a link between these principles and business
needs that is not often present in discussions of role design. Examples are drawn mainly from
manufacturing and the implications for construction supply chains highlighted, as appropriate.
1 Introduction
This paper draws on findings from a number of projects carried out in the
manufacturing domain. It conflates some of the findings from each to discuss
how organisational structures and the definition of roles in the construction
industry might be influenced and designed by consideration of the needs of the
supply chain, insofar as parallels can be drawn with manufacturing. We take a
systems ergonomics viewpoint in this paper, with emphasis on the human and
organisational aspects.
Manufacturing projects which have contributed to this paper are described
briefly in Table I; the references at the end of the paper provides sources for
more detail. The construction context has been informed by research work in a
suite of projects under the banner of ‘‘Concurrent lifecycle design and
construction (CLDC)’’ (Anumba and Evbuomwan, 1997; Evbuomwan and
Anumba, 1998; Kamara
et al., 1999; Yang and Anumba, 1999).
In all of the manufacturing projects in Table I, important aspects for
investigation within the supply chain context were assessment of the
organisational context, the requirement for tools, and the usability issues
involved. The methodology adopted for these investigations was user-centred,
and ethnomethodological in approach. Over all the manufacturing projects,
some 250 face-to-face interviews were carried out as part of the methodology;
interviews occurred in each of the companies, in secluded circumstances. It was
arranged that two interviewers would be present with each interviewee; the
semi-structured interviews were tape-recorded and lasted typically for 40-60
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Supply chain
of CE
minutes, with confidentiality guaranteed. The personnel involved ranged from
operators on the shop floor to technical directors; from IT managers to
accountants; from sales and marketing to service engineering managers
2 Aspects of concurrent engineering
The concurrent engineering (CE) concept as practised by manufacturing
organisations implies the almost simultaneous design of a product, its
development, and preparation for production, whether one-of-a-kind (e.g. ships)
or volume (e.g. automobiles).
It is now widely accepted that for a company to produce world-class
products, it is necessary that not only its own processes, but also those of the
companies that comprise its supply chain must be world-class. Furthermore, it
is not enough that the supply chain should comprise world-class companies;
Table I.
Projects which have
contributed directly to
this paper
Title and description
programme Date
Main industrial
P.6599 EAGLE: European Advanced
Global Logistics Enterprise
Investigated decision support tools for
logistics operations
1992-96 Van den Bergh
AC.070 TEAM – Team-based
European Automotive Manufacturing
Explored the usage of broadband
CSCW technology by different sizes of
user companies; also investigated the
contextual issues in virtual product
1995-97 The Rover Group
Magneti Marelli
R.2112 SMAC – Suppliers and
Manufacturers in Automotive
Developed tools for CSCW in the
supply chain, and explored usability
aspects of these
1994-95 The Rover Group
Magneti Marelli
British Telecom
R.1079 CAR: CAD-CAM for
Automotive Industry in RACE
Identified organisational aspects of
computer-supported co-operative
working in the supply chain, and
developed prototype tools for this style
of working
1989-93 IAD
British Telecom
Ford Motor
Simultaneous Engineering through
People, Organisation and Function
1994-96 ICL
The Rover Group
Morris Mechanical

they must also be bound together by communication channels that enable the
whole chain to respond with sufficient speed and flexibility to meet the steadily
increasing competitive challenge in the marketplace. Finally, there is a
requirement for self-improvement, for all companies in the supply chain.
The consequences of not being able to respond swiftly can be very
expensive; some examples regarding the automotive industry follow:
Being six months late in bringing a new product to the market can result in a loss of 30 per
cent of profit for a product with a lifetime of five years, whereas increasing the development
budget by 50 per cent to get it out in time will cause a loss of profit of only 4 per cent
(Reinertsen, 1983; Crawford, 1992).
An automotive manufacturer in Europe lost US$ 1.8 billion in profit alone (before regaining
its market share) by being one year behind its competitors in introducing a new model to the
market (Holberton, 1991).
An automotive manufacturer in Europe (a different one) estimates that one day’s delay in the
design of a new model will result in a loss of sales revenue of US$ 150 thousand for a
replacement vehicle, and over US$ 1.5 million for a vehicle penetrating a new market (Anon,
Because Japanese automotive companies have faster development times with lower costs,
they can run up to five times more exploratory vehicle programmes than a European
manufacturer (Anon, 1993).
These comments indicate the importance of bringing new products to the
marketplace as fast as possible; calendar time is now the prime resource to be
economised, rather than costs or effort. It is to address this issue that the
concepts of ‘‘concurrent engineering’’ have arisen.
2.1 ‘‘Drivers’’ of the concurrent engineering approach
Commercial products are a compromise between conflicting goals. The most
important conflict is that between the customers’ performance criteria, the price
that customers will pay, and the price of rival products. Most costs are
determined during the design process; however, it is in control of the
manufacturing processes that cost savings due to good design can be realised.
For instance:
. . . until recently Japanese cars had a 40-50 per cent new design content whilst US cars had
around 80 per cent. This means that approximately one half of a Japanese car had already
been proven and thus carried the benefits of reduced costs and less engineering changes
. . .
[furthermore] . . . very little of the product costs are spent here [in design], but up to 85 per
cent could have been committed. Within this 85 per cent of committed cost is a contribution
resulting from poor engineering change management
. . . Some companies have put this
uncontrolled cost to be as high as 20-25 per cent of that needed to get the product to market
(Nichols, 1990).
It is well known that costs associated with a product are determined early in the course of
. . . This rule means that 70 per cent of costs have been determined when only
3-4 per cent of the effort of a project has been expended (Andreasson and Olesen, 1990).

Supply chain
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Design, then, must be efficient. But, as the caricatures in Figure 1 regarding the
manufacturing domain indicate, it must also take account of manufacturing
constraints. There are three sets of constraints which must be considered in
reaching any fixed design solution;
(1) functionality of the product;
(2) manufacturability of the product; and
(3) ease of assembly.
It is the last two which are included in ‘‘design for manufacturability’’, i.e. ‘‘is the
design appropriate for the requirements of volume manufacture?’’ (note that the
same question can be asked of ‘‘one-of-a-kind’’ products, though under these
circumstances the question becomes more one of ‘‘can it be made at the given
cost?’’). This implies:
. all processes must be capable (in statistical process control terms) under
expected production volumes;
. all processes must be available to the organisation when required (note
that this does not require that the processes are all within the
organisation itself);
. all processes must be economic (in the sense of being within stated cost
A design that satisfies these requirements is ‘‘viable for manufacture’’. But as
the earlier arguments indicate, it is not enough for the organisation to ensure
that it ‘‘designs for manufacturability’’. It must do this within the available
market window and the budget constraints applying to that window. It is to
ensure that this wider requirement is met that the philosophy of concurrent
engineering has emerged.
2.2 The context of concurrent engineering
Concurrent engineering implies the co-ordination of the whole product
introduction process; the near-simultaneous design of a product, its
development, and preparation for regular volume production. There are a
number of definitions which emphasise this co-ordination aspect, for example:
[It] attempts to optimise the design of the product and manufacturing process to achieve
reduced lead times and improved quality and cost by the integration of design and
manufacturing activities, and by maximising parallelism in working practices (Broughton,
[It] is an organisational strategy. The idea is to shorten the time of product design by
simultaneous planning of product and production (Eversheim, 1990).
[It] relies on a team approach and the adoption of certain specific techniques
. . . Both the team
approach and the use of disciplined techniques are essential; neither will provide the potential
gains without the other. In addition, records of changes to design, rig testing, experiments
and processes need to be kept meticulously (Hartley and Mortimer, 1990).

Figure 1.
Caricatures of design
processes in the
manufacturing domain

Supply chain
of CE
Figure 2 (Clark and Fujimoto, 1987a), shows the reductions in development
time that this approach can produce in the automotive industry. In essence, in
the 1980s, the ‘‘average’’ Japan-based company was able to get a new vehicle to
the marketplace in one-third less time than its equivalent ‘‘average’’ European
competitor (while the gap has closed significantly, it is still present at the end of
the twentieth century). What is instructive in this diagram is that it is not the
length of the bars than are shorter for the Japanese firm, it is the amount of
overlap between the bars. Also of importance is the leading role of advanced
engineering; this is an important driver of the process.
We may restate this as a configuration problem; firstly, companies must
identify the knowledge required to be able to carry out design for
manufacturability, and then define the organisational configuration of this
knowledge (i.e. who should know what, which knowledge aspects can be
embedded in machines and/or computers, and what communications are required
to ensure an optimal interaction of the knowledge to produce good designs in good
time). Achieving the aims of concurrent engineering requires an optimum
combination of people, technical knowledge and expertise, and technology (of
course, in support of this, the teams must be equipped with the appropriate
responsibilities, authority, and access to resources to execute their responsibilities).
It is this combination which is critical; companies can accelerate
development processes fairly quickly, by simple moves such as grouping
Figure 2.
Comparison of average
automobile product
development times in
European (dark bars)
and Japanese companies
(light bars)

people in ‘‘product teams’’, and by the incremental introduction of integrated
databases and applications; indeed, many companies have done this and have
reported big gains. But so can competitors, and the gains initially achieved may
be temporary as (Braun, 1990) has so cogently discussed. What is required is
not just a regrouping of people, but a regrouping of knowledge as well. In this
respect, a critical concept is that of the ‘‘core competences of the organisation’’
(Prahalad and Hamel, 1990). This implies that the organisation can be seen as a
‘‘knowledge engine’’, using knowledge distributed across the organisation to
produce products. It is essential to bring about a reconfiguration of the
organisation’s competences (design, manufacturing, marketing, etc.) that
enables fast, cost-effective development of appropriate, value-for-money
products. These implications are now fashionably known as ‘‘knowledge
management’’; for greater accuracy, the domain should be entitled ‘‘knowledge
lifecycle management’’. A discussion of the organisational issues implicit in
this, from a manufacturing perspective, with reference to supply chains, can be
found in (Siemieniuch and Sinclair, 1999a). They are discussed in Section 5 of
this paper.
However, what many of these authors have omitted to say is that there is not
much benefit in one organisation carrying out concurrent engineering if all of
its suppliers are carrying out old-fashioned ‘‘over the wall’’ engineering. This is
particularly true of the construction industry, where a typical project involves
five or more disparate disciplines and a chain of suppliers and subcontractors,
collaborating for relatively short periods in the construction of a facility.
Consequently, for the benefits properly to accrue, it is necessary to involve the
whole project team, including the suppliers, in this approach. We now discuss
aspects of supply chains.
3 Characteristics of supply chains
The extent to which any supply chain performs its functions depends very
much on its nature, and the market in which it operates Hoekstra and Romme
(1992) (see also Wortmann (1992) offer a classification of supply chains within
the manu facturing domain. Their classification applies to individual
companies in a supply chain, but with a little adjustment it can be made to fit
the whole supply chain. Their classification (Hoekstra and Romme, 1992, p. 7),
with slight adjustments for the wider context, is as follows:
. Make-and-ship-to-stock. Products are manufactured and distributed to
stock points which are spread out and located close to the customer.
. Make-to-stock. End products are made and held in stock at the end of the
production process and from there are sent directly to many customers
who are scattered geographically.
. Assemble-to-order. Only system elements or subsystems are held in
stock in the manufacturing centre, and the final assembly takes place on
the basis of a specific customer order.

Supply chain
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. Make-to-order. Only raw materials and components are kept in stock,
and each order for a customer is a specific project.
. Purchase-and-make-to-order. No stocks are kept at all, and purchasing
takes place on the basis of the specific customer order; furthermore, the
whole project is carried out for one specific customer.
As will be appreciated, these different classes correlate fairly well with
different types of market, ranging from the large volume markets of retail
goods such as toiletries, and batteries, to ‘‘one-of-a-kind’’ markets such as deepsea gas platforms and space satellites There is an evident analogy here to the
construction industry, as has been indicated by several authors (e.g. Sanvido
and Medeiros, 1990; Anumba
et al., 1995; Crowley, 1996; Egan, 1998).
It will be appreciated that in the large volume markets it is the supply issues
rather than the product development issues which assume greater importance
most of the time, whereas in the one-of-a-kind markets it is the product
development issues which have pride of place. There is a corollary to this; the
structure of the company will necessarily have to adapt to these priorities. As
an illustration of this, the large supermarket chains in the UK in general have a
much larger proportion of resources devoted to supply and forecasting rather
than product development, whereas engineering firms in the gas exploration
industry have a much larger proportion of resources devoted to engineering
and project management.
These classes are based on the concept of the ‘‘customer order decoupling
point’’ (CODP) (Hoekstra and Romme, 1992). This is the point where the
company or supply chain can no longer respond only to customer orders, and
must rely on forecasts. This is clearly a function of the lead time between
receipt of the order and the required time of delivery, and also of the supply
chain’s ability to respond. In principle, it is better to have a situation where the
CODP is as close to the beginning of the supply chain as possible. If this can be
achieved, then the company will design and manufacture only what is required,
with the least delay between effort and reward. However, the organisational
overhead required to accomplish this, coupled with the volatility of the endcustomers in the marketplace, may mean that there is an optimum point
somewhere else in the supply chain. With a little extension to the concepts, they
can be applied to the supply chain as a whole. However, an important
distinction occurs here. In a company, whether devolved or not in its usual
operating mode, there is basically a hierarchical system of control. At the level
of the supply chain this is no longer the case, and one must consider it as a
federated system of control (
de facto, this is not always true when there is a
very dominant company in the supply chain, but we ignore this case). This
raises a number of issues of relevance to ergonomics if an efficient supply chain
is to result, and the discussion of these is the purpose of the paper.
From a business perspective, the critical issues are, firstly, the outsourcing
decisions and secondly, the security and continuity of supply decisions. We

ignore the second class of decisions for this paper, and concentrate on the first
class, since it is the engineering aspects that are the prime focus, rather than
logistics issues.
The decision to outsource parts of the product is a critical one for companies
(Prahalad and Hamel, 1990; Davis, 1992). The danger is that the firm
outsources its key expertise, only to find later that it is squeezed out of the
market by its erstwhile supplier. Equally, if a company goes it alone, and in
effect includes in its products some less-than-world-class design, it could lose
credibility and hence market share. This is critical for firms in the construction
sector as virtually no project can be undertaken by a single organisation
without some degree of outsourcing. Even in the design and build procurement
method, in which one organisation takes responsibility for both design and
construction (Anumba and Evbuomwan, 1997), there is still a considerable
level of outsourcing of design, material supply and construction functions.
Thus, supply chain strategy is important; so also is the maintenance of
relationships within the supply chain once a commitment to a supply chain has
been made.
From a construction point of view, the problem becomes one of co-ordinating
the efforts of architects, designers and engineers spread over several
companies, at many different sites to produce a viable product or facility in the
shortest time, while protecting one’s intellectual property rights and core
competences. Construction supply chains have traditionally been fragmented
and this has resulted in inefficiencies in the project delivery process. The
industry has largely depended on collaborative working between a number of
professional teams brought together, often in an
ad hoc manner, for the
translation of its clients’ requirements into physical constructed facilities.
Whilst this has entrenched the practice of collaborative working, it has also
reinforced traditional disciplines to the extent that, on many projects, an
adversarial environment prevails and the fundamental ethos of collaboration is
not fully evident. This has resulted in numerous problems for the construction
industry with the result that the industry is highly inefficient compared to
other sectors (Anumba
et al., 1995). The ergonomics issues of importance are
those of control, communication, compatibilities and culture. We discuss these
below; to assist the reader, Figure 3 illustrates how these organisational issues
combine to affect the performance of the supply chain. Management of these
issues is necessary for effective performance.
3.1 Control issues
In a single company there is basically an hierarchical system of control,
whether it is paternalistic or has ‘‘empowered its workforce’’. At the level of the
supply chain this is no longer the case, and one must consider it as a federated
system of control, even when there is a very dominant company in the supply
chain. This raises a number of issues if an efficient supply chain is to result,
and we discuss some of the characteristics of federated control – a longer
discussion can be found in Sinclair
et al. (1995).
Supply chain
of CE
The essence of federated control is that co-operation can only occur by
negotiation, and the acceptance of common policies (see Dobson (1988), Dobson
(1991), Martin and Dobson (1991) and Dobson and Strens (1993) for an
interesting discussion). Furthermore, until legal contracts are signed, there is
no power of enforcement. It should be noted that in the UK at least, in the fastmoving consumer goods domain, it is not uncommon for there to be no legallybinding documents involved at all in the supply chain; as an example, one
supplier has invested many millions of Euros in new production facilities to
service a supermarket chain, relying only on verbal promises.
Furthermore, as (Gregg, 1996) has argued cogently, the complexity of
manufacturing supply chains is increasing markedly, bringing with it
increasing problems of control of the CE effort. Translated into the construction
Figure 3.
representation of
relationships between
organisational issues
and supply chain

. The range and functionality of facilities has increased markedly as
customer companies attempt to exploit any available market niches.
. Facility lifetimes are much shorter – enhancements must continually be
. Buyers want facilities in ‘‘ready-to-compete’’ form (not just ready-to-use),
requiring more stages in the supply chain.
. Customer pressure and environmental legislation require longer and
much more complex supply chains.
. There are many linked processes involved.
. Cross-linkages between these processes are manifold.
. There are many groupings of different kinds involved in the operation of
these processes.
In the construction industry, these issues are exacerbated by the traditionally
adversarial environment within which construction projects are delivered. This
has been discussed earlier, and is also demonstrated indirectly by considering
the controls which are exerted on the construction supply chain. These are
usually embedded in the procurement method adopted and the associated
‘‘form of contract’’. These would normally specify in elaborate detail the
responsibilities of each member of the project team along with appropriate
penalties for default. It has been said by senior managers in the construction
industry that some companies rely for their profits on failures by their supply
chain partners to meet the conditions stipulated, with consequent, expensive
reparation payments.
As the new discipline of complexity theory indicates, the consequences of
these attributes is that interactions between the firms will be non-linear in
nature, and, as the discussion of information constraints below also indicates,
are essentially unpredictable (Kauffman, 1993; Mitleton-Kelly, 1997). Therefore,
the overall behaviour of the supply chain cannot be predicted easily, and the
behaviour of the whole supply chain will be in continuous evolution.
Consequently, the prime requirements for control in a federated chain are
communications (to enable agreements to be reached) and the need for trust
(since commands are not feasible). Second, one’s suppliers may well be
supplying competitors at the same time. Equally, one must trust one’s partners
in the supply chain and reveal sensitive information to them, if the benefits of
CE’s time compression are to be achieved. This raises issues of security of
information, and the need for companies to be able to demonstrate (or be
perceived as) secure. This applies to IT systems and to the company’s
procedures, and, even more in a construction environment, to its people.
3.2 Communications and information management
‘‘Communications’’ here is taken to include negotiations and the flow of
information, not just communication channels. Having identified a suitable

Supply chain
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grouping of companies within a construction domain, it is now necessary to
enable them to form supply chains. Negotiations accomplish this, using the
communication channels available. However, before discussing these
negotiations, it is important to discuss firstly some classes of communications,
and secondly some of the generic characteristics of supply chains.
First, it is possible to define at least four classes, as a series of levels:
(1) Transactional level – information about designs must be communicated.
(2) Operational level – there must be provision to co-ordinate and control
the transactions (who meets, when and why).
(3) Policy execution level – negotiate targets, agree operational procedures,
(4) Strategy level – define role and level of participation in supply chain,
discuss market research information, and set other policy issues (e.g.
define the type and scope of the contracts between companies).
Second, the following characteristics of supply chains are apparent, with
reference to Figure 4.
Imperfect information. For example, if company C in Figure 4 is a retail
organisation, its information regarding customers, their buying habits, and
their preferences will be better than those of anyone else in the supply chain,
and in principle its forecasting of demand should be better. This is a
characteristic of all the companies; their local information is better than their
distant information, is more up to date, and constitutes a core competence for
the company, and is usually well-guarded. Consequently, there are inequalities
of information within any supply chain. This creates evident problems for a
concurrent engineering context, since the dissemination of information is a key
requirement for this approach to work. It points to the importance of
communications and tools to allow people to communicate easily, and, in
extreme cases, for co-location of people at one site. The willingness of personnel
to undertake this, and the support that companies are prepared to provide for
this, are important issues (Siemieniuch
et al., 1999).
Figure 4.
Section of a generic
supply chain. A to F
represent companies,
linked by
channels. The diagram
illustrates two
interlocking supply
chains, one running to
company C and one
running to company F

Excluded information. For example, company B will be unlikely to provide
company D with information regarding company A’s new product ideas. This
may be for legal reasons, contract reasons, or good commercial practice. While
company D may be able to estimate what is happening on the basis of its
discussions with company B, in general it means that the situation of imperfect
information is maintained, even enhanced. Equally, company D is unlikely to
inform company B about the activities of its rival supplier, company E. It
implies the need for formal distribution of particular tasks within the product
introduction process so that information is evaluated and used where it is
legally allowed to be accessed, and only the relevant conclusions from those
tasks are passed on, while the expertise is retained. Of course, this is not
possible in reality, and leakage of information is always going to occur; it leads
to a new definition of security – ‘‘controlling leakage, not stopping it’’. An
example of this is discussed briefly in (Siemieniuch and Sinclair, 1999b)
Importance of information utilisation. Under circumstances of imperfect
information, unexpected events will always occur. Companies must maximise
their utilisation of the information available to them if they are to minimise the
effects of these errors, by the use of appropriate tools, methods and knowledge.
Early communication, rapid agreement and joint decision making are critical
attributes of the supply chain (May
et al., 1999). This can be assisted by
agreements among the companies in the supply chain to extend the
‘‘information window’’ between them (e.g. to provide companies in the supply
chain with longer term sensitive information about supply issues). This is selfevident; companies will not make the ‘‘right’’ decisions unless they perceive the
same context for the decisions. Information sharing is one of the objectives of
the partnering arrangements that are being set up between client organisations
and firms in the construction industry, as well as between different sectors of
the construction supply chain.
In practical terms some of the above issues show themselves as follows
et al., 1996; May et al., 1996a):
. A major automotive assembler has calculated that 30 per cent of
warranty claims against its products are due to imported quality
problems from its suppliers that could and should have been eliminated
during design and choice of suppliers.
. The Japanese concept of the ‘‘Geba’’ is common in the automotive
industry; where engineers from all suppliers are brought together at
given stages of the design process to discuss the inter-related problems
that have accrued, and to regain control over the design process.
. Difficulties in identifying parts – suppliers and OEMs tend to use
company-specific numbering systems, because there is no secure, openaccess product data model.
. Differences in CAD applications, platforms and conventions of use
among companies. Legacy systems are a particular source of delays and
non-communication. The efforts towards the development of standards

Supply chain
of CE
– industry foundation classes (IFCs) in the construction industry are
particularly relevant and will have major impact in the future.
. Drawings are not of satisfactory quality, or cannot be found in the
database – for example, CAD geometry models are not always correct,
and may follow local rules in their construction, leading to translator
difficulties (Mattei, 1995; 1996).
. The requirement for 3D models with supporting information, and for
fast, reliable transmission of this – to allow others to explore options as
soon as possible, and to discover constraints. If information is sparse,
then that which is transmitted should be capable of maximum
elaboration. This is a widely recognised requirement. In construction,
there is also an issue of the level of granularity of the graphical
representation of a facility, as the visualisation requirements change in
line with different stages in the project lifecycle.
. Ensuring that design information is up to date. Antiquated (and in some
cases new IT-based) procedures for validation and version control may
delay release of important design changes, which may have already
been discussed with other companies in the supply chain.
. Language difficulties (particularly with design data that has to travel
across national borders) and incomplete information on both the design
and on the supplying company – as discussed above, several levels of
discourse are required for adequate transmission and the establishment
of trust.
. Design problems are often filtered through sales or marketing personnel
– ostensibly to maintain integrity and responsibilities, but causing
delays and reinterpretations of problems. Kamara
et al. (1999) have
proposed a structured approach to the processing of client requirements
on construction projects, as a means of ensuring that design solutions
more adequately address the client’s needs.
. Reliance on face-to-face meetings – it has been estimated that on average
a one-hour meeting consumes four hours of otherwise useful time; more
importantly, problems tend to be held over until a meeting can be
arranged between the appropriate people, introducing considerable
delays. An illustration of this comes from the automotive industry in
Europe. Several years ago a company had its design studios some 300
kilometres from its production facilities, with poor transportation
infrastructures between them. It took over half a day for engineers to
travel to a meeting. Therefore, meetings were not scheduled on Mondays
and Fridays. A similar problem exists on construction projects, where
the provision of company cars is thought to be a major barrier to the
utilisation of video conferencing and other systems that facilitate
‘‘virtual co-location’’.

. The effects of delays in the transmission of design information on lead
times – delivery dates do not change, whatever the delay. This problem
has led companies to adopt the strategy of planning product
introduction processes by weeks rather than by months; so that when
these delays became intolerable, there are week-ends available to catch
up with what should have been accomplished in the regular working
. Incompatibility of systems and applications – causing problems of data
interpretation, and double-entry of data. Legacy systems and old
hardware (of which there are many in the construction industry) are
particular problems, for which investment represents the only viable
. Ontological issues – a key problem in construction is the lack of a
common library of terms for aspects of the construction project and/or
process. This inhibits communication across different sectors of the
supply chain and often leads to misunderstandings and delays.
3.3 Communication infrastructure
It is the realisation of the importance of this issue that has driven many
standardisation efforts. Perhaps the most important of these in the construction
industry is the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) initiative in the
development of IFCs for the construction industry, and the instantiation and
elaboration of UN/EDIFACT, all now global initiatives. These, however, are
not enough in themselves. There is also a requirement for standards to ensure
usable and efficient software and hardware infrastructures to support the
interoperability of IT systems in companies and in particular computersupported co-operative working (CSCW). Finally, such standards are vitiated
without properly-trained people in the various companies in the supply chain to
utilise both the tools and the information.
3.4 Culture
Most of the cultural issues stem from the importance of trust in supply chains.
Where one must operate with incomplete information, and use what is passed
along the supply chain, one must have trust in the companies with which one
deals, if co-operation is to flourish. This is particularly important where
designs are being discussed. It is also important in Figure 4; if company F
discusses costs of supplies with companies D and E, in principle company F
could squeeze company E very hard to reduce prices, if it wished. In federated
systems such as these, trust in one’s collaborating companies is critical if a
competitive position in the marketplace is to be maintained, and it is the
building and maintenance of trust that is crucial to success. This is very
important for construction supply chains and relies on a number of things:
. Common understanding of terms and language. This problem exists in
all supply chains (as well as construction supply chains) and is

Supply chain
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exacerbated in transnational supply chains, where both language and
cultural differences occur (Kanoi, 1991; Mackay
et al., 1992). Note the
implications of this; if terms are standardised, then the knowledge
structures that use them will require some standardisation as well; in
turn, this implies some commonality of training in concepts and levels of
. Common goals and shared benefits. Clearly, if one company has hidden
goals which will have an effect on the relationship between it and a
second company, this is likely to cause what seems to be aberrant
behaviour from the perspective of the second company. The inability of
the second company to understand this behaviour is likely to destroy
trust rather than build it, and it is evident that there must be a
commitment to open discussion of goals, including long-term ones,
between companies (Siemieniuch
et al., 1999). Hence, the establishment
of common goals implies that the communication channels between
companies in the supply chain must occur at many levels; they cannot be
restricted to director level, for example. Consequently, companies
entering supply chains will discover pressures to ensure that personnel
at different levels have some degree of common understanding and
motivation towards the goals of the participation. Strongly centralised
companies with Taylorist philosophies are less likely to be successful in
such environments.
. Integrity in relationships. This is crucial at all levels; the personal level,
the transactional level, the operational level, the policy execution level
and the strategic level. Inter-personal relationships are obviously
important; but these are not enough. It is also necessary to ensure that
operational procedures and organisational structures to use the
procedures will enable integrity to be demonstrated. Finally, a clear
commitment to ethical behaviour is required, in mission statements,
policies, and goals. For smaller companies, they may find themselves
risking the very existence of the company on somebody else’s promise,
and this will happen only if the level of trust is high.
4 The importance of trust
Where one must operate with incomplete information, and use what is passed
along the supply chain, one must have trust in the both the people and the
companies with whom one deals, if co-operation is to flourish. What binds a
supply chain together is not the technology of communications; this is just an
enabler. Nor is it the technical quality and expertise that a company has to
offer; there are always other companies which can provide this. Delivery and
price are important, but the real glue is the organisational and human quality of
trust, both within and between organisations. This relies on a number of

. The establishment of common goals. It does not mean that all the goals of
all the companies in the supply chain have to be co-incident; merely that
the important ones should be held in common (or at the very least they
form subsets of each other). This is a strategic issue; in the automotive
industry, it is usually the case that the final assembler undertakes the
strategic co-ordination role, due to its size and economic power.
. Transparency about problems, and ways of working. This includes such
notions as open-book accounting, internal processes, and so on. This
may require the development of particular policies within companies in
order that they can provide appropriate information to the supply chain,
and is therefore a strategic issue. For example, many Japanese
automotive companies have their own standardised set of performance
metrics, which all companies in the supply chain are expected to use in
order to reveal inefficiencies in operations.
. A willingness to share benefits. How exactly cost reductions, IPR benefits
and the like are to be shared along the supply chain will again require
policies to be established, and is another strategic issue.
. A common understanding of terms and their usage (Kanoi, 1991; Mackay
et al., 1992; Mantovani, 1996). This is important at the management and
operational level, and is a matter of training and practice, rather than a
matter affecting either job and/or role design or policy.
. Respect for confidentiality. This is a standard requirement within all
organisations, whether or not they participate in supply chains, strongly
affected by the organisational structure and role design, and at a more
mechanical level by the design and implementation of the IT
infrastructure. It is a cornerstone of trust.
. Speedy and efficient execution of promises. This is another of the
cornerstones of trust, and of effective supply chains. The important
determinants of this are organisational design; empowerment
(responsibility, authority, and access to resources) of individuals and, by
extension, teams; effective control of processes; and access to timely,
relevant, knowledge and information. Issues of complexity, discussed
above, indicate that supply chains will not always behave predictably,
and therefore ‘‘surprises’’ may be expected (e.g. traffic accidents,
company take-overs, local insurrections, earthquakes). Recovering from
these may require fast, out-of-the-ordinary action by members of the
supply chain, involving promises.
. Personal relationships, built up over time. This, together with the next
point, comprise the other two cornerstones of trust. Knowing your peers’
capabilities, freedoms, empowerment, ineptitudes, biases, and foibles
provides the unspoken context by which the actual dialogue is
translated into meaningful information for you to use. It is also the basis
on which you can rely on your peers, in your own and other companies

Supply chain
of CE
in the supply chain, to take the right actions, without your involvement
or control, to ensure the effective operation of the supply chain and its
processes. The quality of these personal relationships is affected very
much by each organisation’s human resource policies, and by its
approach to the empowerment of individuals.
. Recognition of the ‘‘favour bank’’. This concept provides the basis for the
efficient operation of concurrent engineering and of the supply chain in
general. As complexity predicts, the behaviour of complex supply chains
is unpredictable, and in a sparse information environment an engineer is
always liable to be surprised by some unfortunate event, which provides a
severe problem to be solved, usually in a hurry. At this point, the engineer
may call on others to provide help, resources, or alternatives. This may be
accomplished by people going outside the normal procedures (‘‘bending
the rules’’), or allocating extra resources unofficially, to resolve the
problem situation. In so doing, they rescue the engineer, and ‘‘bank a
favour’’ to be redeemed when they themselves have a similar problem.
The ability to be able to work in this unofficial manner is an integral part
of supply chains, and is directly affected by the level of empowerment of
the individual person, and is therefore an organisational design issue.
5 Implications for the design of roles in construction companies
There is a multiplicity of philosophical approaches to the design of work and
the design of roles. We commence with a discussion of classical approaches to
the design of work.
5.1 Classical approaches to the design of work
At one extreme there is the ‘‘scientific management’’ or the work simplification
approach more often known as Taylorism, in which the philosophical
assumptions are that the workforce is unable to think for itself and therefore
repetitive work is the most appropriate form of work. Therefore, control is best
exerted over individual functions carried out by individual workers; and only
experts are able to define the work and the pace of work correctly, as described,
for example, by (Konz, 1979; 1990). This approach emphasises a technical view of
work, with little recognition of human characteristics, except to minimise them.
Then there are the job enlargement and job enrichment approaches, attributed to
the human relations and job characteristics theoretical standpoints, in which the
underlying assumptions accept that workers are people, and therefore the worker
should be given some authority and autonomy over the work carried out. Hence,
control over the work should be less obtrusive, and there are identifiable
characteristics of jobs that should be present in order that the worker should
experience job satisfaction (Hackman and Oldham, 1976). There may also be
some recognition of the importance of consulting the workers to ensure that the
jobs as designed have some degree of ownership by the workforce. This
approach takes almost no cognisance of technological issues, which are often
deemed to be the province of engineers and can be ignored. A third approach is

that of socio-technical design, in which the underpinning assumptions are that
good jobs for people can only be achieved by joint optimisation of both the social
and technical aspects of the work in the particular environment. It is the workers
who best understand the interwoven nature of technology and social aspects of
their work and therefore must play a significant part in the development of jobs;
and that people work best when they have control of their own work (Davis,
1982). As Ulich (1989) has said:
All three have been successful in identifying a set of job characteristics which now build the
base of concepts of the humanisation of work. These job characteristics are: task
completeness, variety of demands, significance of the job to the individual, opportunity for cooperation and social support, autonomy or control, and finally: possibilities to learn as one of
the key elements of personality-promoting job design.
These are now widely accepted by those who practise job design, and
methodologies have been proposed to enable jobs possessing these
characteristics to be designed (e.g. Davis, 1982; Mumford, 1983a; Eason, 1988).
However, there are three problems:
(1) The degree to which a given job demonstrates these characteristics is
not easily defined.
(2) The way in which these characteristics relate to the business
environment of a particular firm is not discussed except in very general
terms, because it is taken as axiomatic that an improved quality of
working life will inevitably result in better business performance (two
exceptions are Eason (1988) and the ESPRIT project 8162 QUALIT).
(3) These approaches do not consider the effects of co-operative behaviour
required of companies operating in supply chains. It is the latter of these
three problems which we consider in this paper, with particular
reference to the problems of manufacturing and construction companies
operating in a concurrent engineering environment, perhaps involving
virtual engineering.
We discuss these under three headings; the organisational context, the
workgroup context, and at the individual job context. Furthermore, we discuss
these in the context of a semi-autonomous project team working in a distributed
CE environment; a concept that is familiar to construction project teams.
Although it will be evident to the reader, we make the point here that the issues
discussed below are also among the prerequisites for knowledge lifecycle
management; these comprise the socio-technical infrastructure, complementing
the provision of an IT infrastructure and applications architecture.
To assist the reader, we include a summary in Figure 5.
5.1 The organisational context
It will make little difference how the roles are defined, if the organisation is
unable to support them or to give appropriate leadership to the people who
occupy them. We list some of the important considerations:

Supply chain
of CE
(1) Leadership, and commitment to the philosophy of partnership in
external relations and quality performance. Without this guidance there
is a danger that a semi-autonomous team will over-develop its own
working culture to fill the gap, with the danger that this culture will
address the dilemmas of the moment, rather than the longer term
strategic needs of the business. It will also help to diffuse the problem
illustrated in the next point.
Figure 5.
representation of the
relationships between
organisational issues,
the workgroup context,
and aspects of
individual roles

(2) Development of a core IT and communications infrastructure to support
this (Anumba and Evbuomwan, 1999). Clearly, this is a critical enabler.
As mentioned above, one may have the motivation and the resources to
behave in a trustworthy manner, but it counts for little if there is not
adequate recourse to the right knowledge and information. It is therefore
vital that a suitable IT&T infrastructure is in place, with the right
applications implemented. There must also be the right informationsharing policies in place too; as a minimum, we believe that it is necessary
to allow an individual access to operational information at the managerial
level above, and below, that individual’s position in the hierarchy. This
would be the minimum to ensure that the individual is aware of longer
term issues, and detailed performance, in maintaining an adequate state of
situation awareness about the business. This also applies to project teams;
they must be aware of what is going on as well, since there is a need to
present a co-ordinated, cohesive front to the rest of the supply chain.
Furthermore, different project teams (perhaps working on parallel
projects) need to be kept informed, for they may all have dealings with the
same suppliers. It should be noted that on several occasions in the studies
above the comment was made that ‘‘we in this company have contact with
several individuals from company X; what is especially confusing is when
we hear different stories about progress and problems from each of them’’;
hence, keeping people informed within the company is an important issue,
to enable outsiders to see the company as competent and trustworthy.
The leadership point mentioned above is important in this.
(3) Development of processes that will support quality performance (e.g.
customer-oriented business processes with well-designed procedures).
This is the realm of business process engineering, and is not a topic into
which this paper will stray; there is sufficient literature already
available. However, the importance of this is indicated by the following
two quotes, from people who have occupied senior management
positions in industry:
. . . a disciplined environment empowers the intellect, whereas the regimented
environment marginalises it (Humphrey 1989).
When you blur management boundaries, you had better be very clear about the
process, otherwise you will soon be in severe trouble (Cullen 1990).
(4) Appropriate performance measurement criteria, reward structures and
training provision that encourage people to work in a trustworthy
manner. These should be consistent for each person, but not necessarily
the same for everybody, within the organisation (Dobson
et al., 1991;
et al., 1998).
(5) An official strategy and supporting policies for appropriate devolution
of responsibility and authority to process groups. This is of critical
importance for the empowerment of individuals and groups (Senge,
1990; Grote
et al., 1995; Wilson, 1995; Kirsch et al., 1996). There must be
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of CE
provision of training, support, and (in most companies) a large degree of
culture change, in order that the empowered individuals and groups can
operate successfully.
(6) Proper resourcing of the processes. This includes sufficient human
resources of sufficient quality – over-zealous downsizing undertaken by
company strategists is a particular danger. It suffices to point out that
downsizing often affects most those of middle years, in middle
management positions. The consequences of this are that:
. every time a person is removed and automation inserted, there is a
net loss in problem-solving and innovative capability;
. the organisation’s corporate memory is largely in the minds of the
middle-aged; corporate memory is important in many respects, but
particularly in ameliorating the effects and longevity of crises which
are inevitable in any lengthy, complex project; and
. a loss of corporate morale (e.g. Haigh, 1992) – it has escaped few
people working in industry that one attempt at downsizing by senior
management is usually followed by another in the near future.
Furthermore, the destruction of the informal relationships and
communication channels that have been built up and which play a major
part in the efficient running of many businesses damages the efficiency
and working environment of those people remaining, without
necessarily giving them confidence for the future.
(7) Allocation of effort and resources to ensure that the processes within the
company, and the company culture itself, have reached an appropriate
level of maturity – for example, level 5 (a ‘‘learning organisation’’) on
Crosby’s maturity (Crosby, 1979; Humphrey, 1989; Flanagan, 1996). For
convenience, a brief description of these levels is shown in Table II.
5.2 The workgroup context
This is predicated on the proposition that in most of western construction
industry, the unit of human work has become the team, rather than the
individual operator, albeit within an adversarial environment. Structuring and
resourcing of the organisation should ensure the following:
. Provision of organisational structures, roles and rewards that support
team-working, job security, and worthwhile jobs (e.g. by using a sociotechnical approach to their design). If responsibility and authority are to
be vested in teams, then it follows that the people in those teams should
be both enabled to execute their responsibilities, and to do so efficiently
and with good motivation. The important point here is that appropriate
structures, roles and rewards are necessary to enable the team to cope
efficiently with the unexpected events, not the hum-drum, normal
operational activities. Both experience and the tenets of complexity

theory indicate that unexpected events will occur; in a CE environment,
this is expected to be the case, frequently.
. Provision of policies for operation of the workgroup. These policies must
cover: group leadership; decision making; problem resolution; time
keeping; etc. Furthermore, as a particular issue, policies must cover the
mode of operation of the workgroup – for example, as a crew (where
there may be little or no overlap of skills within the group, and specific
people are allocated to specific tasks) or a team (full overlap of skills
within the group, allowing opportunistic allocation of people to tasks,
depending on current conditions), or something in between. This is not a
simple issue; for example, there may be contexts where a crew is the
most desirable way to work; especially where responsibilities must be
clear, and audit trails are a requirement of the business. Equally, if one
wishes to maximise flexibility and speed of response, a team structure
might be best. Finally, there is the evolutionary effect of organisational
learning; as an example, one might quote the development of airbag
safety technology in the automotive industry; initially, when airbags
were a novelty, there might be only one or two people in the organisation
with the requisite knowledge. These people might be allocated
temporarily to project groups, where they would occupy a crew-like role.
With the passage of time, and training in the company, many people
would become experienced in this technology, and one could move to
team-like roles for airbag technology within project groups, because
most people in a CE team would now know this technology.
. Devolution of responsibility and authority to the workgroup
(summarised as ‘‘sufficient authority to make mistakes, and the
Table II.
Outline description of
levels of process
maturity; this refers to
the predictability of the
process and its
controlled, planned
1 Initial
Ad hoc, even chaotic. First step is to achieve rudimentary
prediction of schedules and costs, by introducing a project
management system. This implies scheduling, management
oversight, quality assurance, and change control procedures
2 Repeatable The organisation has achieved a stable process with a repeatable
level of control by initiating rigorous project management of
commitments, costs, schedules and changes. At this stage, the
organisation can meet its cost and time deadlines, more or less,
and feels it has control over the process
3 Defined The organisation has defined the process as a basis for
consistent implementation and better understanding. The
development teams can be expected to use the process even
when crises occur, because it is comprehensive and trustworthy.
4 Managed The organisation has initiated comprehensive process
measurements and analysis. This is when the most significant
quality improvements in the development process begin.
5 Optimising The organisation now has a foundation for continued
improvement and optimisation of the process. This usually
involves a culture shift to a new paradigm of working

Supply chain
of CE
responsibility to retrieve them’’, within given limits). This has been
discussed above; the important concomitant of this philosophy is that
the business processes involved should be robust and well-defined;
otherwise, the mistakes may become more than ‘‘opportunities to learn’’,
with deleterious effects on the trust between organisations in the supply
. Provision of appropriate communication channels, and sufficient
communications content regarding policy, developments, plans, etc. to
ensure coherence, consistency, cohesion, co-ordination, continuity, and
conformity in actions and decisions.
. Provision of appropriate technical resources and training (including
support from the IT&T infrastructure) to be able to execute the group’s
processes efficiently on a regular basis. We refer here not just to primary
processes (e.g. design and documentation of a given component), but to
secondary processes as well (e.g. maintenance of the working area,
participating in management meetings, etc.).
. Provision of project management tools and training, appropriate to the
workgroup’s needs and responsibilities. Figure 6 illustrates some of the
external interfaces of a workgroup, and some of the internal
management and negotiating capabilities that are required. Skills within
the team would be required for all of the functions and interfaces shown.
. Provision of workgroup technical support. This includes job aids,
manuals, software, etc.; those things which are necessary for everyday
Figure 6.
Illustration of a ‘‘Holon’’
(a semi-autonomous
work group), showing
internal functions
necessary for its
operation, external
interfaces, and, by
implication, the skills
needed within the
workgroup to service
these interfaces and
internal functions

functioning of the work group May et al. (1999b) and Holtham (1993)
also discuss a number of groupwork applications, though not in a
construction context. Again, depending on the industrial domain, this
might include such architectural considerations as the communal coffee
area, to allow the informal dissemination of problems and solutions
across project teams.
. Provision of procedures for quality assurance and for quality learning.
Quality assurance is a sine qua non in this environment. Quality
learning is a different issue; it has much to do with capability acquisition
by the organisation, and is closely related to organisational memory.
Consequently, the key issues here are encapsulation of the acquired
knowledge, and its subsequent dissemination. These two issues are too
big to be included in this paper (Siemieniuch and Sinclair, 1999b); suffice
to say that the encapsulation process must cover both formal knowledge
(‘‘know-what’’, or the knowledge which can be written down or reformed
into an algorithm and from which general rules can be abstracted) and
informal or tacit (Polanyi, 1957; 1962; 1967) knowledge (‘‘know-how’’, or
the knowledge which comes from experience and can’t always be
verbalised, and therefore tends to remain as human knowledge – the
kind of knowledge that is a prerequisite for the generation and support
of trust). The former type of knowledge is amenable to technical
dissemination, at least in part, by means of intranets etc. and training
programmes; the latter is much more constrained in its dissemination
channels, and involves much more communication effort, by means of
training, workgroup daily meetings, informal discussions and
demonstrations occurring in the communal coffee area and elsewhere,
and so on.
5.3 The individual role context
The principles listed below are standard tenets to be found in many places in
the literature regarding the socio-technical approach to individual role design
(e.g. Davis, 1982; Mumford, 1983a; Eason, 1988; Ulich, 1989). We discuss these
in relation to supply chains and trust:
. Principle of compatibility. The process of design must be compatible with
its objectives. If the objective is to create a work environment that
enables and enhances trust through the attributes discussed at the
beginning of section 4 then this must be created in a manner that will
deliver these attributes to roles. Insofar as the attributes rely on
experience, tacit knowledge and an ability to get things done, it would
seem sensible to use a participative approach to ensure that there is
sufficient scope for these ‘‘black arts’’ to be practised.
. Principle of minimal critical specification. Summarised in the saying: ‘‘No
more shall be specified than is absolutely essential. What is essential
needs to be identified’’. This means that a considerable amount of

Supply chain
of CE
discretion is left to a work group to develop its roles and activities as
best suits the operating environment in which it works – in this case, for
the development of trust. The principle could be translated as
identifying only the responsibilities and the authority to be allocated, the
resources required to execute these responsibilities, and the interfaces
between members of the work group and their external environment.
The rest of the role definition should be left to the group, so that they
could develop their own, trust-enhancing, ways of working.
. The socio-technical criterion. Operational uncertainties or variances
must be controlled as close to their point of origin as possible. This
means that operators should be given the responsibility, authority, and
resources to control these variances. The fewer the variances that are
‘‘exported’’ from the place where they arise, the fewer the levels of
supervision and control that are required, and the more fulfilling the
roles that are so defined. Clearly, if the practices implicit in the ‘‘favour
bank’’ are to work effectively, this principle is fundamental to the design
of the CE workgroup’s roles.
. Principle of role completeness. People should not be given fractionated,
repetitive tasks. It is more acceptable and efficient for each individual or
group to have a ‘‘whole’’ task, which, from the perspective of the
operator, has identifiable starting and stopping points, requires the
application of cognitive and manual skills, and whose objectives are
easily identified and are evidently in accordance with the overall
objectives of the organisation. These tasks should enable operators to
retrieve errors or mishaps that occur during the performance of the role.
Again, this is a fundamental principle for the design of roles to enhance
. Principle of minimum selectivity. Roles should be designed so that they
can be performed by the widest range of operators; i.e. that the pool of
potential operators should not be unnecessarily restricted because of the
demands of the role. This is an obvious principle, which is not affected in
its application and execution by the considerations in the discussion
. Principle of boundary location. The boundaries between roles, and
between workgroups, must be chosen with care. They should be located
such that the level of communication and co-ordinated effort within the
boundary (e.g. between members of the work group) is greater than that
across the boundary (e.g. between the workgroup and its neighbouring
workgroups). Again, this is an obvious principle, unaffected by the
discussion above.
. Principle of information flow. Information systems should be designed
so that information goes directly to the place or person where the

required action is taken. Much of the discussion in section 3 points to the
necessity for the application of this principle in role design.
. Principle of support congruence. Systems of role support should reinforce
required behaviour. This refers to the organisational culture, the
provision of services and technical support, and facilitation of work by
management. Much of the discussion above has pointed to the need for
this principle; besides, it is a basic principle of ergonomics that such
support should be provided in all cases.
. Principle of minimum change. ‘‘New’’ is not necessarily ‘‘better’’,
particularly if the new ways conflict with the old ways. The problems of
the introduction of new roles and/or new working practices will be much
reduced by minimising the extent of changes from the old ways;
particularly where these will cut across informal ways of working which
people use to support the supply chain. One of the main lessons to be
derived from the discussion above is that ‘‘downsizing’’ and ‘‘business
process engineering’’ are to conducted with great care, and a complete
absence of managerial machismo. In the wrong hands, and with the
wrong philosophy, the main damage these approaches can do to an
organisation (apart from their crushing effects on morale) are to those
parts of organisational knowledge and organisational memory, and to
the informal ways of working that enable an organisation to be seen to
be coherent, efficient, reliable and trustworthy.
However, these principles in themselves will not produce appropriate CE roles
for the organisation. The roles should be designed to ensure that they have the
following attributes:
. CE workgroup members have access to appropriate information on
suitable displays at the appropriate time.
. Workgroup personnel have appropriate common models of the supply
chain, its technology (including, obviously, the company’s contribution
to this) and its processes.
. Workgroup members understand the purpose of the project, the nature
of the design object(s), and the engineering requirements.
. Members of the group have developed cognitive skills to manipulate
information and engineering knowledge to reach design decisions.
. Workgroup personnel have developed the necessary skills for
communicating with other group members and outside personnel.
. The group has the means by which to execute decisions and to evaluate
their consequences both internally and in the context of the supply chain.
. The group is given responsibility for goals and authority to entrain
resources to attain these goals, and policies to assign these
responsibilities and authorities within the group.

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of CE
. Opportunities to think, learn and develop new capabilities.
. Adequate motivation to carry out the tasks, based on clear
responsibilities and authority, relevant and sensitive performance
metrics, appropriate reward and recognition structures, and
opportunities for individual growth.
6 Conclusion
In this paper we have focused on the implications of a concurrent engineering
environment for supply chains in general and for organisational interactions
and role design in particular. Concurrent engineering is a critical approach in
any construction process, contributing most to time and cost reductions and
organisational efficiencies. Based on lessons learnt in studies of the supply
chain context in a variety of manufacturing and engineering contexts, we have
tried to extrapolate some of aspects for application within the construction
industry. Many of the problems discovered and solutions mooted apply equally
well in several domains where supply chain interactions are critical to the
successful delivery of an end product, whether this be a car or a new building.
It is our belief that there is a direct, logical link between the consideration of
the supply chain and the design of roles within it. In order to demonstrate that
this link exists we have first discussed some generic characteristics of supply
chain complexity issues, control issues and information issues and discussed
how the problems created by these issues depend on a basis of trust for their
amelioration. Then we have outlined organisational behavioural characteristics
that underpin the development of trust, and discussed how organisations can
create the right operational context for these behaviours to be shown by
addressing the design of roles within three important contexts: the organistion
itself, the workgroup and the individual. This will enable companies to address
issues of structure and personal motivation.
The converse link would also appear to be valid (i.e. that there is a logical
trace from organisational considerations to the performance of supply chains).
Finally it is worth emphasising that investment in complex information
technology and communication support infrastructures will continue to be vital
in order to enhance and support individual, group and organisational
interactions along the supply chain. However, on its own technology is not
enough: attainment of commercial goals by effective usage of this (frequently)
expensive technology infrastructure depends on creating the appropriate
organisational context, clearly stated and shared strategies and policies,
recognisable roles and role boundaries, commonly-agreed working practices
and an environment that encourages trust. The aim of this paper was to
provide organisations with some guidance on how to tackle these frequently
elusive ‘‘soft’’ issues.
From a conceptual viewpoint, we have tried to demonstrate that this link
exists by through considerations of the configuration of knowledge both within
the organisation and in its supply chain, and of the importance of taking an
organisational learning/knowledge lifecycle management approach to this. We

have discussed some generic characteristics of supply chain complexity issues,
control issues, information issues and discussed how the problems created by
these issues depend on a basis of trust for their amelioration. We have outlined
organisational behavioural characteristics that underpin the development of
trust, and discussed how organisations can create the right operational context
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