Tampere University of Technology

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Improving Suppliers’ Position in Construction Project Networks

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


Original languageEnglish
PublisherTampere University of Technology
Number of pages85
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-15-4139-1
ISBN (Print)978-952-15-4129-2
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2018
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampere University of Technology. Publication
ISSN (Print)1459-2045


Construction projects are typically delivered by networks consisting of multiple organizations. Attention to such project networks, in terms of their structures, activities, and more specific inter-organizational relationships, is increasing. Often, research in the construction sector places clients and contractors at the center of the project network and focuses on their strong dyadic relationships. These are highly relevant actors and relationships, but it is argued that inter-organizational relationship research should also consider the other parties, such as suppliers and designers, that are involved in construction project networks. Little empirical research focuses on non-central actors whose interests might be to improve their positions in project networks.

The objective of this thesis is to increase our understanding of improving the position of non-central actors in project networks. This thesis focuses on suppliers of materials and components (as non-central project actors in construction project networks) and their relationships with contractors and designers. Suppliers are one of the most neglected research categories in the construction industry, although materials and components account for 50–60% of construction project costs and suppliers are regarded as key sources of construction innovations.

This thesis employs a mixed method research strategy in which both qualitative and quantitative research approaches are used as a complementary complication. It includes a summary and four publications (Articles I–IV). Articles I–III explore the improvement of the position of suppliers from the perspective of designers, and Article IV explores the issue from the perspective of contractors. Articles I and IV employ a qualitative research approach and the data is collected through interviews. Article II employs a conceptual research approach and the data is collected through a literature review. Article III employs a quantitative research approach and data is collected through a questionnaire.

This thesis argues that suppliers can improve their position in construction project networks by influencing purchasing decisions and enhancing their relationships with contractors and designers. To influence purchasing decisions, suppliers need to market their potential to both contractors and designers at the business level. At the project level, they should identify the actor with the most influential role in making purchasing decisions and focus their marketing activities on that actor. This thesis reveals that contractors and designers expect activeness, technical capability, and cooperation from suppliers. Based on these expectations, this thesis suggests project- and business-level practices to enhance suppliers’ relationships with contractors and designers. This research contributes to project network research by differentiating between business-level practices that are implemented outside a single project context and project-level practices that are implemented within a single project context. The thesis argues that suppliers can improve their position in a single project network by implementing project-level practices, but they need to develop business-level practices to improve their position in the underlying project business network. This thesis also contributes to construction innovation research by indicating that suppliers need to actively seek out development ideas from contractors and designers and develop their marketing capabilities to overcome barriers that hinder the innovation potential of suppliers.

Field of science, Statistics Finland

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