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工程管理专业英语课后翻译-The Nature of the Construction Industry

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The Nature of the Construction Industry

The construction industry is a paradox in many ways. In its roughly 8.3 percent, $418 billion-plus share of the United States’ gross national product(1988), it is the largest industry, but the vast majority of its hundreds of thousands of participants are small business. There are over half a million construction firms in the United States alone. These firms are intensively competitive among themselves in the best traditions of the free enterprise system, yet, compared with other industries, construction’s technological advances sometimes appear trivial.

Construction has many characteristics common to both manufacturing andservice industries. Certainly, as in other manufacturing, there are physical products, and often these are of mind-boggling size, cost, and complexity. But in other ways, construction is more like a service industry becausesuch as steel, transportation, petroleum, and mining. Onesees this in comparative financial surveys,such as the Forbes andFortune magazines’ listings of the “top 500” businesses. Although several ofconstruction’s the largest firms ate listed each year on the basis of sales (cumulative annual contract awards or revenues), and sometimes on the basis of profits, few, if any, are even near the “top 500” on the basis of assets. Also, as in other service industries, success or failure in construction is by farmore dependent on the qualities of its people than it is on technologies protected by patents or on thesheer availability of capital facilities, though the latter, in particular, is often also very important.

Construction is highly fragmented and sometimes divisive, yet in response to pressing nationalneeds, such as a major war effort, few industries can mobilize resources more quickly. Each of its elements-designers, constructors, regulators, consumers, suppliers, crafts can be highly skilled in its ownarea, yet there is little general perspective on how all the pieces fit together. There really is on central focus.

Indeed, there is no clear definition as to just the construction industry is.

Certainly it must include the hundreds of thousands of general and specialty construction contractors. But to understand the industry really, one most extend its scope to include designers of facilities, materials suppliers, and equipment manufacturers. Labor organizations add still another dimension, as do public and private consumer of construction services, many of whom have considerable construction expertise oftheir own. Government regulatory agencies in such areas as safety, health, employment practices andfair trade also play an increasingly important role.

The construction industry is very custom-oriented; there is a strong feeling that if something is unique, it is better.Yet, this orientation also means that the industry has been slow to respond to the benefits of mass production. Its structure is highly specialized and layered, with complex interlockinginterests and traditions. Its character makes it highly effective on practical or project matters, yet often ineffective on general or program matters.

Research and development fall in the latter category of the less practical and more general andspeculative. Accurate date is not available,but it is generally assumed that only a fraction of 1 percent of the industry’s gross revenues are invested even in applied research,let alone basic research.This is in strong contrast to industries, such as electronics, where an estimated 10 to 20 percent ofrevenues go into research and development. This investment, in turn, at least partially accounts forthe quantum leaps the high-technology industries have taken in recent years.

It has been observed that the construction industry is almost completely incentive-oriented. Ifthere is little programmatic activity, it is likely that there is little incentive for investing in it. This reluctance to invest probably results in part because advances in construction tend to develop from innovations, or“better ideas”. Most of these cannot be protected by either secrecy or patents, and therefore disseminate rapidly through the industry. Thus, there is little incentive for one firm to investheavily in new developments that can soon be expected to benefit its competitors equally.

Owing to the comparatively large numbers and small sizes of its businesses, its

fragmentationand divisiveness, and its service characteristics, the construction industry, as a whole, cannot significantly influence the demand for its output or control the supply. The consequent instability of demandthus dominates everything. For example, seasonality is chronic, and construction has an amplified reaction to basic business and resources. Consequently, there is often too much work in some regions atthe same time that others are suffering localized recessions. Major problems recur in funding bothlarge and small projects, and these difficulties can be aggravated by government competition for andmanipulation of the finite funds that are available. Construction also is often placed in the forefront ofgovernment fiscal and social policy.