Exploring the Potential for the Application of Simulation Methods in Construction Project Delivery in New Zealand
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The development of simulation-based techniques used within the construction management domain is mainly to facilitate the decision-making process. These technologically-based approaches enable construction operations managers and planners to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of the real-world process under different conditions. The models resulting from simulating a construction operation, therefore, provide a basis for the support of managers and planners in making the right decisions at the right time. Simulating an operation in different scenarios gives managers and planners a clearer picture of the system behaviour in advance, rather than facing those scenarios for the first time in the real world. The more accurate the simulated models, the more feasible the achievement of controlling and managing different scenarios. Implementations of simulation approaches have become popular, and have quickly grown in number in industries other than construction. The reason attributed for the slower uptake in construction operations is the need for information technology (IT) knowledge and programming skills. However, scholars have recently strived to develop simplified programs for the construction industry to alleviate the need for IT knowledge and skills. Such programs have not yet been commercialised due to the complex nature of construction operations. To enhance the level of recognition of these programs, they should first be implemented in different types of construction operations. The development of a sound framework for their implementation would attract more attention among construction industry users (site managers and planners) and support the achievement of more accurate models. The current research study has selected one of the most recent simplified construction simulation programs to explore its capabilities in the modelling of a particular construction operation. The selected construction operation utilised a new method of bridge construction, launching operations using a twin-truss gantry machine, in one of the largest infrastructure projects in New Zealand. The study investigated the subject matter from the perspectives of productivity improvement, and facilitation of construction operations management and planning by supporting project managers and planners with their decision-making process. The current study design applied a case-based strategy. The design and application of the analytical pattern assisted with constructing validity and reliability throughout all phases of data collection, data composition and data analysis in the study. The data collection phase used multiple sources of evidence, including document analysis and participant observation, with best-fit distribution analysis, simulation and animation analysis undertaken in the data analysis phase. The study found that understanding operation behaviour is a crucial part of simulating an operation. Initially, the study developed a work breakdown structure (WBS) diagram for the gantry operation, with this translated into a specific format to fit the simulation program. Concurrent with modelling the construction process of the first bridge ramp and comparing the logic of the simulated model with the real-world project, the study developed a framework for simulating the operation. The simulation of different scenarios verified the modelling procedure embedded in the framework. Consequently, a simulated model for the launching operations was normalised by running the model on the construction of the second bridge ramp in the selected case project. The study findings indicated how the simulation program could facilitate the management of complex operations by providing managers and planners with good insights into system behaviour and by assisting them in the development of high-level schedules. Therefore, the research demonstrates how and to what extent simulation-based approaches can achieve benefits in the improvement of construction operations productivity. The study integrates the analysis of system behaviour through using advances in technology in construction data warehousing, and emphasises the advantages of simulation approaches at the scheduling level, in scenario analysis and in identification of constraints. It is anticipated that the findings of this research could improve the current productivity rate in the New Zealand construction industry, especially as they can be used in collaboration with the principles of lean management and its particular tool: the Last Planner System (LPS).