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Lean thinking literature review and suggestions for future research

Lean thinking literature review and suggestions for future research

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The research provides a literature overview from a timespan of more than 60 years with articles historically and thematically organized about the application of “Lean thinking” (LT) concept and the main research findings through different industries. Lean thinking is an important but yet still under researched aspect of strategic management. By collecting research records from ISI web of knowledge naming directly the lean thinking issue; 34 Web of science records, 10 Medline records and 2 Chinese citation database records were found. Results show that the main focus areas on lean thinking researches are mainly applied in health care industry (with the 48% of the collected records) followed by manufacturing industry (17%), construction (10%), product development (7%), training and education (7%) and supply chain (2%). Other industries (9%) are also starting to apply lean thinking philosophy according to the particularities of their domain. We find research gaps and provide directions for further investigation.
The research provides a literature overview from a timespan of more than 60 years with articles historically and thematically organized about the application of “Lean thinking” (LT) concept and the main research findings through different industries. Lean thinking is an important but yet still under researched aspect of strategic management. By collecting research records from ISI web of knowledge naming directly the lean thinking issue; 34 Web of science records, 10 Medline records and 2 Chinese citation database records were found. Results show that the main focus areas on lean thinking researches are mainly applied in health care industry (with the 48% of the collected records) followed by manufacturing industry (17%), construction (10%), product development (7%), training and education (7%) and supply chain (2%). Other industries (9%) are also starting to apply lean thinking philosophy according to the particularities of their domain. We find research gaps and provide directions for further investigation.

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Published by: World-Academic Journal on Oct 19, 2013
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WORLD ACADEMIC JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & APPLIED SCIENCES-MARCH-SEPTEMBER 2013 EDITION
110
Lean Thinking Literature Review and Suggestions forFuture Research
Haritz Gorostidi Martinez (Corresponding author)Glorious Sun School of Business and Management, Donghua University West Yan An Road 1882Wang Xue LuShanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, 536 Changle Road Jing’an, Shanghai 200040, China
Accepted 25 June 2013
AbstractThe research provides a literature overview from a timespan of more than 60 years with articleshistorically and thematically organized about the application of “Lean thinking” (LT) concept and themain research findings through different industries. Lean thinking is an important but yet still under researched aspect of strategic management. By collecting research records from ISI web of knowledgenaming directly the lean thinking issue; 34 Web of science records, 10 Medline records and 2 Chinesecitation database records were found. Results show that the main focus areas on lean thinking researchesare mainly applied in health care industry (with the 48% of the collected records) followed bymanufacturing industry (17%), construction (10%), product development (7%), training and education(7%) and supply chain (2%). Other industries (9%) are also starting to apply lean thinking philosophyaccording to the particularities of their domain. We find research gaps and provide directions for further investigation.
Key words:
Lean thinking, strategic management, health care
1. Introduction
The application of lean thinking has made a significant impact both in academic and industrialcircles over the last decade, at the same time, fostered by a rapid spread into many other industry sectors beyond the automotive industry, there has been a significant development and "localization" of the leanconcept(P. Hines, Holwe, & Rich, 2004). Lean is a revolution, not just about the using of tools, or changing few steps in manufacturing processes, it's about the complete change of the businesses; howthe supply chain operates, how the directors direct, how the managers manage, how employees or  people go about their daily work, in short words, every aspect of the business(Czabke, Hansen, &Doolen, 2008;Melton, 2005).The background of lean thinking is based in the history of Japanese manufacturing techniqueswhich have now been applied world-wide within many types of industry(Melton, 2005). As prescribed  by Womack and Jones, LT principles have been successfully applied to manufacturing and operationsenvironments. Case studies as well as research literatures have been published extensively(Haque &James-Moore, 2004). Its advantages and advancements have turned into a new generation guidancethinking of management revolution since the 21
st
century(Wang, Qi, & Ieee, 2008). Even thoughinitially lean thinking was mainly applied within the manufacturing industry(Czabke, et al., 2008; Davies & Greenough, 2001;Fearne & Fowler, 2006; Haque & James-Moore, 2004;P. Hines, et al., 2004;Melton, 2005). Lean thinking has also been introduced in the health care service industry helpingto get rid of wasteful steps and fasten up patient flow problems(Ben-Tovim et al., 2008;Ben-Tovim et
International Journal of Business & Management June 2013 VOL.1, No,4
 
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2. Literature review
2.1.
 
 Manufacturing lean thinking
 
Maintenance practices within manufacturing industry can cost companies between 30-50% of their  production, to avoid that burden, an investigation on the level of presence of LT within the maintenancedomain was done, resulting in a summary of maintenance techniques(Davies & Greenough, 2001).Despite successful "lean" applications in a range of settings, lean approach has also been criticized onmany levels such as the lack of human integration or its limited applicability outside highly repetitivemanufacturing environments. The resulting lack of definition has also led to a confusion and fuzzy boundaries with other management concepts(P. Hines, et al., 2004). Lean thinking philosophy canenable any enterprise including a power plant to run at maximum efficiency or constructing a lean production information system, and produce top-quality products at the lowest cost(Meng, Liu, & Fan,2007;Motley, 2004). LT can also help secondary wood product manufacturers become more profitable,improving the marketing process, customer services, new product development process and customer satisfaction. There are challenges however related to communication. Its critical to communicate thevision and values of lean thinking to all the employees, making them understand and accept the LT benefits(Czabke, et al., 2008). Traditional applications of lean thinking are also believed to be limited in production, manufacturing, and just in time projects. These traditional lean thinking have somelimitations and that is why a “Total Life cycle Lean Thinking” should be promoted through the total lifecycle of the product(Wang, et al., 2008).Using lean manufacturing methodology in a remanufacturing industry, a disassembly and reassembly product scheme with nine scenarios of material and information flows processes wereoffered for future managerial advice(Kanikula & Koch, 2010). A boat factory that would put the leanthinking into practice, proposing the most appropriate concepts was also shown, taking from case studyof Finish LT pioneer boat factories(Ehrs, Rymaszewska, & Pekkala, 2012).
2.2. Product Development lean thinking
Womack and Jones’ principles of lean thinking were applied to the New Product Introduction (NPI).In particular, the five lean principles; specify value, identify the value stream and eliminate waste, makethe value flow, let the customer pull the process and pursue perfection in 40 aerospace companies.Finalizing with a summary of the key methods and tools that enable LT in NPI(Haque & James-Moore,2004).A study in product development in a traditional sector such as the furniture industry two casestudies were analyzed focusing on the organization to balance functional expertise, establish customer defined value, front load the product development process and standardization tools. The results in new product development in furniture study revealed an inefficient flow of information in all phases of the product development leading to numerous sources of waste(Medeiros, Seibel, Jorge, Fernandes, &Asme, 2010). One of the latest studies addresses sustainability and environmental issues from the product development design state through its product life cycle, identifying a baseline on developingtools for future research(Sorli, Sopelana, Salgado, Pelaez, & Ares, 2012).
2.3. Construction lean thinking
To use lean thinking discretely and indiscriminately in an environmental project with high levels of complexity and uncertainty can produce a potential danger. Some attempts as removing capacity intransportation, stockholding and on-site labor can be logical and cost-saving but others can result inreduced levels of responsiveness and flexibility. Common thinking to the application of lean principlesto the construction industry is challenged and called for awareness of the project-centric nature of theconstruction industry and the application of LT on it(Fearne & Fowler, 2006).The aim of presenting a study discussing the role of rapid prototyping in a seamless lean processfrom the concept design (3D CAD models) to the construction of a building was also proposed in thefields of rapid manufacturing and automated construction techniques(Celani, Granja, & Pinheiro,2008).To increase productivity in installation of water and sewer services in metropolitan construction projects, avoiding delays workflow must be improved (Kung, Alex, Al-Hussein, & Fernando, 2008).The recognition of the importance of sustainable construction by the government gives impulse to theinvestigation of a sustainable construction model based on LT. This made construction schemes more
 
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sustainable, acceptable, saving resources and costs of the projects, benefiting society, environment, aswell as cutting the construction cycle and enhancing the building quality(Yan, Wang, Zhang, & Zou,2008).
2.4. Supply chain lean thinking
Food value chain analysis (FVCA) based on lean paradigm has been applied to eight differentvalue chains in the UK. System theory was used to evaluate FVCA, based on four sub-system goals and values; logistics, human resources and management structure, resulting in a positive potential logistics benefits along the chain. The two most important implementation issues proved to be the intercompanyalignment of other sub-systems and chain organizational stability through time(Simons & Taylor,2007).
2.5. Health care service lean thinking
2.5.1. Helping to eliminate wasteful activitiesAdopting the “Lean” management technique can help hospital staff to eliminate wasteful activities(Castle, 2007). Bone and brain metastases treatment for example should begin as soon as possible and the operational improvement method based on lean thinking could help. LT’s main principles improved the processes, cutting the number of individual steps to begin treatment. The patients receivingconsultation, simulation and treatment on a day, rose form 43% to 95%, improving the overall deliveryof clinical care to bone or brain metastases patients(Kim, Hayman, Billi, Lash, & Lawrence, 2007). Inhealth care, lean thinking has emerged as a comprehensive approach towards improving processes in thediagnostic, treatment and care activities with cost containment results, however it can be used also as anapproach to effective organizational change(Tsasis & Bruce-Barrett, 2008). One of the concepts used for redesign health care delivery is lean thinking; however lean often leads to resistance due to its lack of high quality evidence supporting lean premises. The need to use the original lean tools may belimited because health care may have different instruments and tools already in use that are in line withlean thinking principles. LT has the potential to improve health care delivery but there are somemethodological and practical considerations that need to be taken into account otherwise leanimplementation will be superficial and fail, adding the existing resistance and making it difficult toimprove health care for the long term(Joosten, et al., 2009). Lean thinking encourages service providersto focus on value as defined by the customer and the elimination of waste that impedes the flow of value.The following factors are key for Lean project success: expert guidance for initial efforts, leadership inthe form of clinical champions, senior management support of the improvement work, frontline worker engagement in mapping out "current state" processes, identifying waste and designing an improved "future state," using metrics to develop and track interventions, and defining a realistic project scope(Kim, Spahlinger, Kin, Coffey, & Billi, 2009).Disruption affecting surgical process can be identified and reduced addressing firstly thesequestions; (1) what elements of information flow govern the implementation of an existing activitywithin surgical process? (2) What information is needed from other activities before starting and completing the existing activity? (3) How can the interdependencies between disruption events beidentified?(Al-Hakim & Su, 2010). Lean thinking has been applied successfully in a wide variety of healthcare settings. But while lean theory emphasizes a holistic view, most cases report narrower technical applications with limited organizational reach. To better realize the potential benefits,healthcare organizations need to directly involve senior management, pursue value creation for patientsand other customers, and nurture a long-term view of continual improvement(Mazzocato, et al., 2010).Actor network theory (ANT) is useful for explicitly tracking how organizational players shift their  positions and network allegiances over time, and for identifying objects and actions that are effective inengaging individuals in networks which enable transition to a Lean process(Papadopoulos, Radnor, &Merali, 2011).In a study of process design comparison in lean thinking framework, exploring efficiency in termsof lead times, visits and costs, the environmental context and operational focus primarily influenced the process design of cataract pathways. Hospitals can use these systematic benchmarking data to decreasethe frequency of hospital visits, lead times and costs(Van Vliet et al., 2011).There is experience in hip fracture patients after applying LT value-stream approach. Usingavailable resources in an efficient manner, there is a significant reduction of 5%-9.3% in the 30 dayand overall mortality after its implementation(Yousri, Khan, Chakrabarti, Fernandes, & Wahab, 2011).The new approach of identifying areas for change in an ongoing nurse-led liaison service for older adults resulted in improving access to mental health services for elderly medically ill inpatients and 

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