Production Management in Design and Construction

This guide describes how collaborative methods can be used to improve production management in the design and construction of infrastructure projects.

Collaborative working methods have helped reduce costs and improve delivery time of major projects
Collaborative working methods have helped reduce costs and improve delivery time of major projects

Improving Performance Through Collaboration - foreword

Andy Mitchell, Chair of the Infrastructure Client Group introduces the Production Management in Design and Construction guide, explaining more about it's purpose. Download a copy of the full guide including foreword.

Andy Mitchell, Chairman, Infrastructure Client Group, introduces the guidelines

Production Management Team

Name Employer
Daniel Agutter Transport for London
Miles Ashley Transport for London
Russell Batchelor Jacobs UK
Chloe Chen Highways England
Martin Cowell Transport for London
Dale Evans Anglian Water
John Grimm @One Alliance
Kathryn Henderson Skanska
Robin Hendrich Jacobs UK
Anouk Jaeger EC Harris
Charles Jensen Institution of Civil Engineers
Simon Murray Acumen7
John Podmore @One Alliance
Nyree Stanley @One Alliance
Brian Swain Lean Construction Institute UK
Patrick Theis Drees & Sommer
Sabrina Wagstaff EC Harris


This guideline shows how infrastructure companies can reduce the cost of projects and the time it takes to deliver them by collaborating with their suppliers in managing design and construction. Production management achieves these outcomes by involving all parties in planning the work, removing barriers to efficient execution, measuring performance and learning from experience. The result is more innovative work programmes and more reliable production processes. These are simple practices that are rarely applied to construction projects in the UK.

There are significant shortcomings in traditional approaches to planning and managing construction. Project managers prepare programmes with limited input from the people who will do the work and then push work through design and construction, often starting tasks that cannot be completed. Studies have shown that on typical construction sites:

  • About 50% of the tasks that were started could not be completed as planned 1
  • As a result up to 50% of construction man-hours were not productive 2

These studies have led to new approaches to production management that have been used successfully on infrastructure projects around the world. They include proprietary systems like Last Planner 3, as well as systems that infrastructure companies have developed for their own use. Evidence from Highways England and Anglian Water Services suggests that production management can reduce the costs of projects and their construction programmes by more than 10% and at the same time improve suppliers’ productivity.

In this guideline we set out the principles and the terminology of production management as applied to the design and construction of infrastructure projects. We describe the key processes with examples from projects in the UK. And we suggest how companies can get started in using production management in their own programmes.

We are grateful to the following organisations for their contributions to developing this guideline:

Logos for participant companies
  1. Ballard G and Howell G A (2003), Competing Construction Management Paradigms. Proceedings of the 2003 ASCE Construction Research Congress, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  2. Hawkins G (1997), Improving M&E Site Productivity. BSRIA Technical Note TN14/97
  3. Ballard G (1994), The Last Planner. North California Construction Institute Spring Conference, Monterey, California

Principles and terminology

There are many different approaches to production management in design and construction each with its own processes and terminology. But underpinning all of them are three principles that define production management:

  • Collaboration – production management is done with the companies, their supervisors and the people who will execute the work in the design office and on site.
  • Transparency – the processes and outputs are transparent and made available to everybody involved in the project through the use of visible planning methods and performance metrics.
  • Improvement – production management engages the workforce in resolving problems and improving performance.

Production management complements traditional project management. It takes the work packages and milestones that project managers define and constructs around them viable plans for executing the work and transparent processes for measuring production and improving performance.

Project management is based on a hierarchical structure with the project manager at the apex. The project manager plans the project, allocates work to the contractors, monitors progress and directs the contractors when plans have to be changed. Design and construction are sub-contracted to suppliers who plan and manage their own work beyond the sight of the project manager.

Production management works within this structure but from the outset engages the designers and suppliers in planning and managing the project. This is done using the collaborative planning and production management techniques described in this document. By engaging the people who will do the work in the planning of the work we ensure that plans are based on current knowledge and that the workforce is committed to them. The production management processes enable the workforce to adjust their plans to make best use of the resources available rapidly identifying problems and solving them.

“By adopting production management techniques, our projects and programmes are now more achievable, robust and predictable”

Daniel Agutter, Change Project Manager, London Underground

In the following sections we describe the five basic steps of production management in design and construction and make some practical suggestions as to how you can get started.

Production management step 1
Production management step 2
Production management step 3
Production management step 4
Production management step 5
Production management step 6