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Innovation in clean-room construction: a case study of co-operation between firms


  • Rob Shields
  • Kevin West


This study examines partnering between a large client, multinational contractors and specialist suppliers, and local subcontractors involved in a project to construct clean room facilities. An ethnographic approach is used, which demonstrates the changing attitudes, values and the new working arrangements that emerged. The social bond of a 'construction challenge' was the basis of trust and sharing risk in a 'quasi-fixed network'. In place of formal contracts, ongoing bargaining and continuous negotiation took place. However, the client was seen to dominate the construction process. Shared workspaces or 'liminal zones', betwixt and between firms, were created to allow collaboration. These are argued to be a practical organizational approach to sharing information and co-ordinating inter-firm activities. Among trades, agreements were struck to exchange training and apprenticeships for allowing foreign specialists and equipment to be imported by the high-purity gas supplier. Liminal zones appear to function as on-the-job classrooms for rapidly training workers in unfamiliar construction techniques and systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Rob Shields & Kevin West, 2003. "Innovation in clean-room construction: a case study of co-operation between firms," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(4), pages 337-344.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:conmgt:v:21:y:2003:i:4:p:337-344
    DOI: 10.1080/0144619032000111232

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. S. D. Green, 1999. "The missing arguments of lean construction," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(2), pages 133-137.
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