Ocean Paper

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Defining an Industry: What is the size and scope of the Australian Building and Construction Industry? By Gerard de Valence

DEFINING AN INDUSTRY: WHAT IS THE SIZE AND SCOPE OF THE AUSTRALIAN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?
Gerard de Valence Construction Economics, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Introduction The traditional structure-conductperformance approach to industry economics originated in the US in the 1930s with the work of Mason (1939) and Bain (1959). This is now the standard framework for analysing the dynamics of an industry. However, the size and scope of the Australian construction industry at the turn of the millennium may be better understood using an alternative model that highlights the diversity of the industry and the range of actors involved. Industry analysis has traditionally focused on groups of firms with similar characteristics in their production processes, goods or services produced, and markets served in the wider economy. The distinction has been between firms and industries, and the analysis has emphasised the importance of economies of scale and scope (Sutton 1991) or organisational structure (Williamson 1979). One major difficulty in the standard structure-conduct-performance approach has been the definition of industries within the theoretical criteria of product homogeneity. Further, some analysts see the construction industry as a manufacturing system, similar to the automotive industry. This view underpins the recommendations in the Egan Report (1998) in the UK, which emphasises lean thinking in construction. This analogy argues the industry in Australia has a few very large key players whose task it is to 'assemble' constructed items, complete buildings or transport facilities for example. These key firms play the same role in both 'production' and innovation as the…...

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