An exploratory case study of offshore outsourcing within downstream structural steel engineering services

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University of Alabama Libraries

Although the offshore outsourcing trend continues to grow in the Architectural Engineering and Construction industry, research on the downstream design services has been fairly limited. In this thesis, we investigate downstream structural steel engineering services offshored from the United States to India. Employing ethnographic data collection method, we conduct face-to-face semi-structured interviews and telephonic interviews of US client and Indian vendors. Supporting evidences are gathered from multiple sources of data such as process checklists, minutes of meetings, and sample documents. Data analysis reveals 6 key constructs and 16 sub-constructs that address the issues and areas of concerns associated with offshore outsourcing of downstream design services. The key constructs include unrealistic contractual obligations, lack of constructability focus, inefficient design information exchange, technology interoperability issues, virtual team misalignment and internal team misalignment. We further assess our constructs' validity by testing for matching patterns between observed constructs and organizational theories--Institutional theory, Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) theory and Resource Based (RB) theory. Based upon the observed matching patterns we show that these theories can be used to understand the issues and problems arising due to off shoring of downstream design services. Through this theoretical categorization we generalize our findings across a wide spectrum of downstream engineering disciplines in the AEC industry. This research characterizes the offshore outsourced downstream structural steel engineering services and provides understanding of the critical problems and issues prevailing under the attractive surface benefits within offshore outsourced downstream design services.

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Civil engineering, Organization theory, Cultural Resources Management