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Learning on lean: a review

of thinking and research

Learning on lean

Jose Moyano-Fuentes
Department of Business Organization, Marketing and Sociology,
University of Jaen, Linares, Spain, and

Macarena Sacristan-Daz
Department of Financial Economics and Operations Management,
University of Seville, Seville, Spain

Received 8 January 2009
Revised 3 September 2009,
25 May 2010,
1 December 2010,
24 January 2011
Accepted 24 January 2011

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of research on lean production (LP)
since the concept was developed at the end of the 1980s with the aim of developing a model that
permits an extended and comprehensive understanding of LP.
Design/methodology/approach A literature survey of peer reviewed journal articles and
paradigmatic books with managerial impact is employed as the research methodology.
Findings The findings derived from the evaluation of the publications analysed have led to the
creation of an extended model of LP. Specifically, two new groups of factors to be taken into account in
order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of LP are presented. Apart from internal aspects at
the shop floor level and value chain elements, the model provided includes work organisation and the
impact that the geographical context has on LP. In addition, the critical assessment of publications has
allowed a number of specific aspects to be identified for which there is no empirical evidence.
Originality/value This paper puts forward a new classification of literature identifying key
aspects that should be included for LP development and management. It might represent new
opportunities for rigorous and relevant research that would contribute to more transparent knowledge
of LP being gained.
Keywords Lean production, Shopfloor, Just in time, Work organization, Value chain,
Geographical context
Paper type Literature review

1. Introduction
Companies currently need to find solutions to certain challenges that they are subjected
to by the competition, the marketplace and the institutional environment they are in
through their management style. This new scenario has led to a search for alternative
management models aimed at guaranteeing the meeting of customers needs in order to
reinforce the companys competitive position. A number of researchers have detected a
trend towards the adoption of the principles of the lean production (LP) model which
not only affect companies internally but also the way they are organised externally
(Shah and Ward, 2007).
The term LP was first coined by Krafcik (1988) in his Masters degree thesis at the
MIT Sloan School of Management[1]. However, the English term lean was chosen for
the Toyota System and popularised by MIT Toyota researchers in The Machine that
This study was funded by the research projects P08-SEJ3607 and ECO2010-22105-C03-02 of the
Andalusian Regional Government and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

International Journal of Operations

& Production Management
Vol. 32 No. 5, 2012
pp. 551-582
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/01443571211226498



Changed the World (Womack et al., 1990) to contrast their LP with the alternative of
mass production. In their book, the LP concept was broader since, in contrast with the
work by Krafcik, not only were manufacturing operations discussed but also product
development, and supply chain and distribution issues (Holweg, 2007). Since the
publication of The Machine . . . , the LP model has been the focus of growing attention
from the scientific community as a good management method for improving
companies competitiveness. In the mid-1990s, Voss (1995) established that there was a
high level of research into LP and just-in-time (JIT) on the basis of articles published in
International Journal of Operations & Production Management (IJOPM) and also that
the trend was on the increase. It was precisely the following year when said magazine
brought out a special edition on LP (1996, Vol. 16 No. 2). Some years later, Shah and
Ward (2003) were still highlighting the interest shown in the topic by researchers, in
this case the year after the International Journal of Production Economics (IJPE) had
likewise published a special edition on the subject (2002, Vol. 80 No. 2). More recently,
Radnor and Boaden (2008) opened up the debate on the repercussions that LP has in
public services when they coordinated a special issue of the Public Money
& Management journal (2008, Vol. 28 No. 1). The benefits that LP generates in
companies outside its natural context (manufacturing sector), including the service
sector and, more specifically, a number of sectors with particular features, such as
public services, are thus recognised.
The scope and significance of thinking and research on LP have changed over time,
so it is necessary to use a retrospective vision and a global dimension that bring out the
main aspects related to LP in the present day. In this paper, we intend to attend to this
matter by identifying the key elements for LP development and management, so that
an extended and comprehensive understanding of LP can be obtained, at the same time
that we obtain a critical assessment, identifying relationships that arise in the research
of LP, facilitate the work to be done by new researchers wishing to undertake work on
LP, and try to provide new directions for future research in the subject. In order to
achieve these goals, the literature on the subject has been exhaustively compiled and
evaluated to the present day.
The literature provides several articles reviewing LP, but their objectives are
different from those of this paper. For example, Hines et al. (2004) analysed the
evolution of research on LP together with the evolution of the lean concept itself
identifying four key stages in its development focusing on different competitive
priorities: awareness in the 1980s, a focus on quality in the literature of the early 1990s,
a focus on quality, cost and delivery in the late 1990s, and customer value from 2000
onwards. More recently, Holweg (2007) stated that the lean concept was the outcome of
a dynamic learning process that adapted practices originating in the automotive and
textile sectors in response to environmental contingencies in Japan at the time. Also
highlighted is the role played by the MIT International Motor Vehicle Program in
companies recognising the importance of lean practices for improving their results.
The aim of this paper differs from that of Holweg (2007) since we analyse research on
LP to date, but do not focus on reasons explaining the origin and rise of the system. In
addition, this paper complements that of Hines et al. (2004) by putting forward a new
classification of literature identifying key aspects that should be included for the
creation of an extended model of LP.

Four bundles of aspects connected with LP have been identified which will be analysed
in this paper, with special attention being paid to the current situation surrounding the
practice. A study of these aspects composes the blocks that this article is structured into
after Section 2, which sets out the research methodology. Consequently, Section 3 is
structured in four subsections. The internal aspects of LP, that is, those at the shop floor
level, are presented in Subsection 3.1, where three related issues are distinguished: the
principles of LP, its implementation process, and the results produced. Subsection 3.2
analyses the literature on the impact of LP on the value chain. Subsequently,
Subsection 3.3 is devoted to work organisation in LP, while Subsection 3.4 focuses on the
impact of the geographical context on LP. Finally, the conclusions are set out in Section 4
along with lines of research that should be addressed in the future.
2. Methodology
The research methodology employed was a literature survey. Methodology of this type
has been successfully used in recent works devoted to evaluating research on other
management systems, such as total quality management (TQM) (Sila and
Ebrahimpour, 2002), supply chain management (SCM) (Gunasekaran and Ngai,
2005), new product development (Krishnan and Loch, 2005) and others (Kouvelis et al.,
2005) and is highly appropriate given the objectives of this paper.
The revised bibliography includes peer reviewed journal articles and paradigmatic
books with managerial impact on the subject; dissertations, test-books, unpublished
working papers and conference papers were excluded. Literature was taken from
journals in the areas of production and operations management (OM), operations
research, general management, logistics management and human resource management.
Articles were identified in the main management databases (ABI Inform Global;
Business Source Premier; Elsevier ScienceDirect; Emerald Database and Anbar
International Management Database) using key words or terms that are often used in the
literature to describe LP-related principles and practices and were therefore deemed to be
the most relevant search key words: lean manufacturing; LP; lean management; lean
thinking; lean enterprise, Toyota Production System (TPS); JIT; and SCM. The search
was done for the period between the publication of the Womack et al. (1990) book to the
present day. Despite the fact that JIT and the TPS had already been known for almost a
decade before its publication (Schonberger, 1982; Hall, 1983; Monden, 1983), this book
played a key role in disseminating the concept of LP in the world. The reason for this was
that the Machine book not only discussed manufacturing operations but also product
development, and supply chain and distribution issues (Holweg, 2007, p. 426).
In addition, we wanted to ensure that all articles related to LP that appeared in five
essential journals for the OM area were checked, and all electronic editions of IJOPM,
Journal of Management, International Journal of Production Research, Production and
Operations Management and IJPE were systematically searched.
The database searches yielded hundreds of articles. Each of the articles was
examined to ensure that its content was relevant to LP from the perspective of the aims
of our research. This paper should contribute to defining and clarifying what LP
consists of, classify the literature based on groups of aspects that permit an extended
model of LP to be developed, review the selected articles on LP for their contribution to
the development of LP, leading to some useful insights into LP and some future
research directions, and facilitate research for new adepts who want to make

Learning on lean




a start in LP. For this reason, the consideration and classification of articles was done
on the basis of the criterion of selecting only those in which LP was at the core of the
article, whilst others dealing with some implicit aspects related to the management
system, such as those linked to TQM, total productive maintenance (TPM) or single
minute exchange of dies, or technical aspects in general terms, were rejected.
The classifying procedure was as follows:
Analysis of the papers research question identifying the conceptual aspects for
LP development and management.
Grouping of conceptual aspects of a similar nature and/or related to research
topics on LP.
Grouping of topics into representative sets of aspects to develop an extended
model of LP.
3. Analysis of the literature: an extended model
By using the classifying procedure described above, four groups of elements that
should be included in an extended model of LP were detected:
(1) Internal LP aspects (at the shop floor level), which allow a comprehensive
picture of the system to be set out on the internal level of the companys
production process.
(2) The impact of LP on the value chain, which is logical considering that SCM is
one of the key research areas for OM researchers nowadays.
(3) Work organisation in LP, as might be expected since the human factor and
respect for people are some of the pillars of this management system.
(4) The impact of the geographical context on LP.
These issues have not been systematically addressed by researchers and practitioners.
Figure 1 shows the proposed extended model for LP considering these groups of
For a better understanding of the proposed grouping, an assessment of research on
every group of the identified elements is done, emphasising the existing relationships
in the literature.
Research on Lean Production
Emphasis on

(Shop Floor)

Value Chain

Key aspects:

Key aspects:
- Principles on which LP is


Figure 1.
An extended model
of lean production

- Implementation process
- Results derived from



- Extension of lean principles

to the value chain

- Restructuration of the supply


Key aspects:
- Degree of human resource

commitment to LP
- Influence of LP on work system
- Effect of LP on human resource

- Unfavourable effects on human


Source: Authors

Impact of

Key aspects:
- Impact on LP of social,

cultural and economic context

of the country

3.1 Research on internal aspects (shop floor level) of lean production

LP first appeared in the Toyota automotive company during the 1950s to tackle the
need to cater for smaller markets with a greater variety of vehicles, which required
greater production flexibility. Its main objective is to execute operations at minimum
cost and with no wastage. To this end, it is designed to act upon the causes of
variability or losses (such as anything that the customer does not perceive as added
value), and upon the causes of inflexibility (anything that does not adapt to customer
demand) with a view to achieving an improvement in quality, costs, and delivery and
other times (Womack et al., 1990). LP can therefore be referred to as an integrated
manufacturing system aimed at minimising inventory levels and maximising capacity
use through the minimisation of variability in the system (Wacker, 2004; de Treville
and Antonakis, 2006).
The origins of this philosophy go back to 1986 when MIT academics and visiting
Japanese professors were working on how to transfer the Japanese human resources
and production system to US plants. A benchmarking index was used with companies
classified on a scale from fragile to robust or buffered. Fragile was later
amended to Lean, which was seen to have a more positive connotation (Shimada and
MacDuffie, 1987; Krafcik and MacDuffie, 1989). The term lean production was first
used by Krafcik (1988) and, as was natural, Womack et al. subsequently used the term
lean production in the Machine book to contrast it with the Western mass production
system (Holweg, 2007).
LP can be found in literature and practice with other similar names that refer to the
same concept: zero inventory production, synchronised manufacturing, production
without stocks, materials as they are required or continuous flow manufacturing.
However, LP is a different system to agile production. Whereas LP pursues the efficient
use of resources through the elimination of wastage from unnecessary or inefficient
operations or through a surplus of inventory between operations, agile production
(or agile manufacturing) aims at companies being able to efficiently adapt to changing
and uncertain market conditions (Narasimhan et al., 2006). Both systems address the
same competitive priorities (quality, costs, delivery times and service level) but put the
emphasis on different elements. So, whereas LP tries to satisfy the customer by adding
value and eliminating waste, creating long-term relations with suppliers and reducing
stocks to a minimum throughout, agile production together with agile supply chain
seek to satisfy the customer by configuring to order and creating virtual supply chains,
with supply chain stock reduction having little importance (Christopher et al., 1999).
Hallgren and Olhager (2009) find that lean and agile manufacturing differ in terms of
drivers and outcomes. Despite these differences, some researchers present lean and
agile production as strategies that are mutually supportive (Katayama and Bennett,
1999; Naylor et al., 1999; Christopher and Towill, 2001). If lead-times are long but
demand is predictable, then there is an opportunity for lean strategy to be pursued.
However, when demand is unpredictable but lead-times are short, then there is an
opportunity for agile strategy to be pursued (Christopher et al., 2006).
The most recent definitions of LP focus on its impact on value delivery focusing on
operations carried out inside the company or at the shop floor level. As such,
Murman et al. (2002) state that becoming lean is a waste elimination internal process
with the goal of creating value.

Learning on lean




Three work groups focused on the internal application of LP have been identified:
those that analyse the principles on which it is based, those focused on the
implementation process and those that analyse results derived from its implementation.
3.1.1 The principles of lean production. The basic principles of LP were described by
the authors who coined the term: Krafcik (1988), Womack et al. (1990) and Womack and
Jones (1996). In their book Lean Thinking, Womack and Jones (1996) codify the essence
of LP into five well known basic principles:
(1) Specify value.
(2) Identify the value stream.
(3) Avoid interruptions in value flow.
(4) Let customers pull value.
(5) Start pursuing perfection again.
Since then, there have been several major papers that have gone into said principles in
greater depth, as well as others than have proposed new principles supporting lean
thinking, which have been summarised in Table I.
In said table, it can be appreciated that up to 2007 research emphasised the
management of internal operations to achieve the goals of LP. In this line, Cusumano
(1994) sets out a broad range of main factors as the necessary condition for achieving
the objectives of quality, productivity and flexibility as established in LP. He refers to
these as the principles of lean management and groups them together according to the
effects that they have on production or the product. Other authors (Richards, 1996;

Nature of principles


Basic principles (Womack et al.,

1990; Womack and Jones, 1996)

Specify value

Other principles considered in

Table I.
The principles
of lean production

Source: Authors

Authors developing (basic) or

proposing (new) said principles

Cusumano (1994), Richards (1996),

Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002)
Identify the value
Cusumano (1994), Karlsson and
Ahlstrom (1996), Richards (1996),
Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002)
and Suzuki (2004)
Avoid interruptions in Cusumano (1994), Karlsson and
value flow
Ahlstrom (1996), Richards (1996),
Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002),
Suzuki (2004), Shah and Ward (2007)
Let customers pull value Shah and Ward (2007)
Start pursuing
Cusumano (1994), Karlsson and
perfection again
Ahlstrom (1996), Richards (1996),
Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002)
and Suzuki (2004)
Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002)
Respect for people
Emiliani (2007a, b)
Involve supply chain
Shah and Ward (2007)

Karlsson and Ahlstrom, 1996), however, take an opposing point-of-view to this wide
spectrum of factors and focus on a smaller number of features to develop LP principles.
Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002) include an aspect in their paper based on
Karlsson and Ahlstrom (1996) related to managerial commitment to the model. This
ties in with the results obtained by Zayko et al. (1997) who, when analysing the
application of the model in a number of industries, discovered that the first obstacle
and main issue when implementing LP is a lack of management conviction in the
benefits it provides.
Suzuki (2004), that focuses on value stream and continual improvement, points out
that the essential elements of LP are JIT and Japanese Work Organisation (JWO). JWO
consists of establishing a way of organising work aimed at the comprehensive
practical application of workers skills;, i.e. the full use of the labour forces skills. On
this basis, LP principles can be broken down into two groups. In the first group can be
found the principles of JIT, which affect productivity, costs, delivery times and the
product range, whereas in the second group can be found the principles of JWO, which
have a bearing on product quality, costs and productivity.
More recently, in an attempt at clarifying all the elements supporting these
principles and developing a multifaceted measure for LP, Shah and Ward (2007)
identified ten key aspects related to the system. Most of these ten aspects (six) are
linked to internal features of the company while the others relate to the management of
external aspects connected with suppliers and customer involvement, going beyond
the scope of the original principles. However, Emiliani (2007a, b) emphasises the
importance of respect for people, a principle that is often missing from the practice of
LP. This principle should be an inspiration, not a deterrent, and is understood only
through daily practice.
3.1.2 The implementation process. With regard to papers focusing on the
implementation process for LP, the first issue that must be mentioned is that there is no
agreement on which sequence to follow, as can be seen in Table II.
On the one hand, there are authors who defend parallel implementation since, like
Hayes et al. (1988), they consider that LP principles cannot be implemented in isolation.
However, others like Ferdows and de Meyer (1990) state that LP should be
implemented sequentially as, on the one hand, there has to be a natural sequence for
sustainable capabilities to be obtained, and, on the other, the amount of effort and
resources that management can devote to the implementation of improvements may be
limited. Womack and Jones (1996) defined the theoretical phases that companies should
follow to implement LP and put forward policies to be applied. Accordingly, the
sequence should start with a partial adoption in the most visible and important
activities in the company and continue with gradual complete adoption. For their part



In parallel

Hayes et al. (1988)

Ferdows and de Meyer (1990), Storhagen (1993),
Womack and Jones (1996), Zayko et al. (1997)
Ahlstrom (1998)

In parallel and sequentially

Source: Authors

Learning on lean


Table II.
The sequence in which
LP principles should
be implemented



Rich et al. (2006) produced a detailed implementation guide and an illustration of other
companies that have applied lean thinking in practice, highlighting the key challenges
and pitfalls.
The reasoning behind sequential implementation is backed up empirically in
Zayko et al. (1997) and Storhagen (1993). Zayko et al. (1997) describe the process
beginning with the setting up of teams and their training in continuous improvement.
Subsequently, engineering personal and supervisors should be trained up in lean
techniques. Next, programmes should be put in place in key departments to encourage
operatives to reduce machine set-up times and to suggest how improvements might be
made. The management, meanwhile, should focus on how to involve staff by rewarding
them for any initiatives that lead to a significant cost reduction, increased machine
capacity and reduced machine and operative idle times. Finally, the plant should be
reshaped into manufacturing cells, with the creation of multidisciplinary teams, the
application of JIT and the detection of inefficiencies in the remaining company areas.
Storhagen (1993) suggests that the implementation process should begin with
techniques and methods that change the features of the manufacturing systems
(such as those that allow a cut in machine set-up times), and then continue with those
that permit improved material flows (such as geographical proximity of suppliers or
quality certification provided by suppliers).
Ahlstrom (1998) expresses another view when he points out that there is a need to
implement principles both in parallel and sequentially (Figure 2). Figure 2 shows how
management effort and resources need to be devoted to the core and supporting
principles in parallel. As the foundations are laid with zero defects and delayering,
management effort and resources can shift to starting a continuous improvement
initiative. The initiative implies using multifunctional teams to solve problems as a
natural part of their day-to-day work.

Elimination of waste
Multifunctional teams


Pull system
effort and

Vertical information system

Team leaders
Continuous improvement
Zero defects
Delayering (reductions in
hierarchy levels)

Figure 2.
LP implementation

Time spent adopting Lean Production

Source: Ahlstrm (1998)


Whether done sequentially or simultaneously, there are another two clearly interesting
aspects of the LP adoption process that the researchers have not been blind to: the
aspects that trigger or catalyse adoption and the problems that result from it.
With regard to the former, in their analysis of the adoption of LP in the
South African automotive industry, Kojima and Kaplinsky (2004) state that the two
main aspects that led to its being adopted were the role played by companies with
foreign capital (especially Toyota) on the one hand, and the role played by the
companies themselves in specific training programmes, on the other. Be that as it may,
it should be stressed that the steps that have to be taken in order to change to the new
system differ greatly from one company to another (Kochan et al., 1997).
On the other hand, another group of papers identifies problems arising in companies
during the implementation process and these are summarised in Table III.
Pavnascar et al. (2003) assert that there is no way systematically to link a
manufacturing organisation to its problem and to the possible tools to eliminate these
problems. These authors propose a classification scheme to serve as a link between
manufacturing waste problems and LP tools, which can be used to match different
types of manufacturing wastage to appropriate tools. Smeds (1994) argued that
internal lean changes in manufacturing processes can trigger radical innovations
towards lean enterprise structures and that, as a result, it is necessary to manage
change to LP as an innovation process. In this sense, Moyano-Fuentes et al. (2012)
found that companies need to augment the degree of use of internal information
technology in order to increase the level of implementation of LP.
Delery (1999) underlines the importance of having sufficient knowledge to be
exposed to the influence of international competitors, employees preferences and
cultural values and pressures from trades unions and governments. In this sense,
Harrison and Storey (1996) state that the following should be done before this system is
put in place in the company:
Established barriers should be eliminated, considering implementation as a
whole and not simply the implementation of a series of techniques.
Integration should be improved.
Employees commitment level should be rewarded.
Problem relating to. . .


The remuneration system serves as both an obstructing and a facilitating

force in the implementation process. There is a tendency for the
remuneration system to be more obstructive at first, but with time it tends
to facilitate the implementation process
Need for prior evaluation of integration, supply chain management,
recognition of level of commitment, company culture
External environment (increase in pollution, adaptation to variations in
demand, unfavourable reaction of consumers to excessive number of
products), internal environment (ageing reduces flexibility)
Way that the role of the workers is regarded
Information about competition, workers preferences and cultural values,
pressures from trade unions and government policies

Karlsson and Ahlstrom


Source: Authors

Learning on lean


Harrison and Storey

Katayama and Bennett
Maccoby (1997)
Delery (1999)

Table III.
Problems arising during
the LP implementation



The agenda for management change should be extended throughout the

organisation as far as the supply chain.
The company culture should be changed.

The viability of LP also depends on the effects it has on the companys external and
internal environments (Katayama and Bennett, 1996). Problems that it causes in the
external environment include increased traffic around industrial cities resulting from
frequent deliveries with consequent increased pollution, inconvenience to other users,
and greater fuel consumption. Another problem might be an unfavourable consumer
reaction to an excessive number of new models being brought out onto the market
causing confusion when choosing a new product. One of the problems related to the
internal environment is the ageing population, which makes it difficult for companies
to achieve the flexibility that they seek and results in an inability to adapt to variations
in demand (Katayama and Bennett, 1996).
Finally, some authors indicate that the systems weak point lies in the way the
workers role is regarded (Maccoby, 1997). Effectively, as Womack et al. (1990) point
out, what really attracts workers to a lean company is not the chance to develop on the
basis of their own initiatives, but rather the high salaries achieved by trades unions.
Cooney (2002) goes further into this issue and states that these conditions make it a
more interesting prospect to work by lot in certain industrial scenarios and, as such, LP
is not a universally applicable management system.
3.1.3 Results of implementation. To analyse the results of LP implementation we
will distinguish between those related to company activity and those observed in
(a) Impact of LP on company activity. Spear and Bowen (1999) state that although
many companies have tried to apply the principles of LP, only very few have achieved
the results on a par with Toyota. It is not difficult to understand that what is right for
Toyota may not be right for every company since they have a long-standing relationship
with highly competent suppliers, and extraordinary engineering expertise (Ward et al.,
1995; Liker, 2004; Liker and Meier, 2005). Moreover, there is also the difficulty of
understanding the principles that guide Toyotas decision making in design and that
have led to its highly effective product development system (Sobek II et al., 1999; Morgan
and Liker, 2006).
LP implementation is appropriate and generates positive results not only for the
motor industry but also for many other sectors, including services (Womack et al., 1990).
Notwithstanding, for certain industries the implementation of LP suggests a need for
work to be done by lot rather than using this system (Cooney, 2002). Burcher et al. (1996)
propose this variant for cases where orders are repeated with great frequency, in an
attempt to find a balance between the minimum lot size and the time required to change
tools and set up. Table IV shows other industries apart from the motor industry where
LP implementation has generated positive results.
The adoption of LP in the service sector took place once widespread acceptance in the
manufacturing industry had been achieved. Nevertheless, there is a lack of a similar
width and depth of understanding in the service sector (Hines et al., 2008a). Table V
shows different service activities where LP has been successfully implemented,
although at a considerably slower rate than in manufacturing. Reasons for the slow
uptake of this management system include difficulties encountered in standardising



Kitchen appliance
Filter manufacture
Iron and aluminium smelting
Ceramic tile
Red Meat
Artistic clay tile
Petroleum drill

de Toni and Tonchia (1996)

Zayko et al. (1997)
Murman et al. (2002)
Lee and Allwood (2003)
Wu (2003)
Wu (2003)
Bonavia and Marin (2006)
Hines et al. (2006)
Zokaei and Simons (2006)
Lander and Liker (2007)
Green et al. (2010)

Source: Authors

Activity of services


IT companies
Fast food companies
Housing and care services
Legal sector
Public services

Bowen and Youngdahl (1998)

Womack and Jones (2005)
Womack and Jones (2005)
Fillingham (2007) and Proudove et al. (2008)
McQuade (2008)
Hines et al. (2008a)
Radnor and Boaden (2008)

Source: Authors

operations and times, the fact that these firms are innovation laggards compared to
manufacturing firms, and the need for an appropriate approach to demand chain
management given the unpredictable nature of customer demand for services (Bowen
and Youngdahl, 1998; Cuatrecasas, 2002; Hines et al., 2002). More specifically, Liker and
Morgan (2006) point out that the Toyota model can be applied to services by
standardising design, processes and human skills in services.
A special case is the adoption of LP in public services. According to Radnor and
Boaden (2008), LP has been adapted rather than simply adopted in this sector, since it
has been applied to processes that it is not suited to, and considered as a set of tools and
techniques rather than a fundamental shift in culture and approach. For this reason,
before contemplating the implementation of LP in the public sector, some prerequisites
or minimum conditions must be met; adopting a process-based view, for example, or
understanding capacity and demand and linking improvement activity to strategy
(Radnor and Walley, 2008). It is similarly important that enthusiastic supporters of the
conversion should exist to deal with problems arising from the move to LP (Esain et al.,
2008) and, in general, there needs to be a greater degree of attention paid to
management-labour relations than in manufacturing (Scorsone, 2008). This is a key
aspect for creating a lean university, for example, where it is necessary to work with
project teams in small, regular bursts to be able to improve customer value and
eliminate waste (Hines and Lethbridge, 2008).

Learning on lean

Table IV.
Industries apart from the
motor industry where
LP has generated
positive results

Table V.
Service activities where
LP has been implemented



In addition, LP has been far less applied to the continuous process sector
(Abdulmalek et al., 2006; Abdulmalek and Rajgopal, 2007). This might be due to the
typical characteristics of this sector (these include large, inflexible machines, long set
up times and a general difficulty for the production of small batches). However,
Abdulmalek and Rajgopal (2007) demonstrate that there are several lean practices in
the steel industry that can be suitably adapted (set up reductions, the 5S, value stream
mapping, JIT, production levelling, TPM and visual systems). It would be advisable for
this sector to use a simulation model to evaluate basic performance measures and
analyse the system configuration.
(b) Impact of LP on performance. A central tenet in the theory of LP is that the
implementation of lean principles and practices will reduce waste and thereby decrease
costs. So, Fullerton et al. (2003) found a positive relationship between company profitability
and the degree to which waste-reducing production practices are implemented. However,
Lewis (2000) and Lin and Hui (1999) advise caution over the generic assertion that LP
boosts an organisations performance. LP does not inevitably result in improved financial
performance; the critical issue appears to be the firms ability to appropriate the value
generated by any savings made (Lewis, 2000). Said ability depends on internal
organisational factors such as leadership, management, finance organisational culture and
skills and expertise (Achanga et al., 2006; Browning and Heath, 2009).
Herron and Braiden (2006) state that LP tools may have a major impact on specific
areas of the business but are not a panacea for all problems. Precisely because of this
there is some concern for explaining why major lean transformations fail to be sustained
(Bateman, 2005; Lucey et al., 2005). In order to stay lean, it is helpful to think of the lean
process as an iceberg. The technology, tools and techniques that affect processes are
those visible above the water. However, the vast majority of the iceberg is beneath the
surface and invisible. It is the enabling, anchoring mass which makes an iceberg a
powerfully strong force. Addressing all of the enabling iceberg elements is essential in
order to deliver a successful, sustainable transformation. However, this is only part of
the initial mindset required by a lean implementation team. There needs to be an
appreciation of the right mix of above the waterline and below the waterline
activities. It is also important to realise that the different parts of the iceberg are all
interdependent. Thus, effective strategy and alignment can only be delivered through
strong leadership which, in turn, will only be successfully achieved in a positive
organisational culture that is receptive to learning and improvement (Hines et al., 2008b).
3.2 The impact of lean production on the value chain
SCM is one of the key research topics in the OM area nowadays (Alfalla-Luque and
Medina-Lopez, 2009) and, as Hines et al. (2004) underline, LP is more than a mere
factory shop floor application, and also comprises relationships with suppliers and
customers. Our literature review has permitted two key aspects related to the impact of
LP on the value chain to be identified: on the one hand, a group of studies underline the
need for LP principles to consider the appropriate management of relations with
commercial partners; on the other, some research focuses on changes produced in the
supply chain as a consequence of applying LP.
3.2.1 Extending lean principles to the value chain. The principles of LP can be applied
throughout the value chain from the process of placing orders with suppliers to product
distribution and delivery to the customer. It is possible to eliminate waste, improve

quality, reduce costs and increase flexibility at all stages (Womack et al., 1990).
Consequently, Richards (1996) highlights that one of the distinctive principles of LP is
that the consumer and the competition must never be overlooked, since the customer
must be offered products that are more appealing than the competitions. Otherwise,
despite the company being efficient, inventory will grow rapidly. For this reason it is not
enough just to be lean; a company must also be agile enough to make timely changes. In
this line, in their latest book, Lean Solutions, Womack and Jones (2005) focus on
consumption, coining the phrase Lean Consumption, and elaborate on how companies
can eliminate inefficiency during consumption, that is, minimise customer time and
effort by delivering exactly what they want when and where they want it.
A company has to establish a relationship with customers and suppliers based on
trust and a high degree of motivation to learn which allows knowledge to be freely
shared (MacDuffle and Helper, 1997). Panizzolo (1998) found that the most critical
factor for LP principles to be fully implemented appears to be the management of
external relationships rather than internal operations. He stresses the importance both
of integrating the different organisations into the value chain in order to ensure
excellence in final products and services, and of the way customers are integrated into
the organisation. That is, suppliers have to adopt a proactive approach to customer
service and be prepared to exceed customer expectations. Customers have to release
their traditional hold on the process and encourage suppliers to take ownership of the
processes in which they are involved (Sanderlands, 1994).
3.2.2 Restructuring of the supply chain because of lean production. LP involves a
process of vertical disintegration and has been especially important in the automotive
industry. Lamming (1996, p. 183) therefore coined the term Lean Supply to refer to
the purchasing activities of vehicle assemblers and the supply activities of the
component (and component system) manufacturers. Accordingly, Lamming argues
the merits of the broader concept of supply management. In this industry suppliers
are critically important in aspects such as quality, productivity and flexibility of the
production system. Consequently, lean supply is associated with level scheduling and
optimisation and means improvements in quality, service level and lead-time (Morgan,
2007; Christopher and Towill, 2000).
In other respects, suppliers have had the way they are organised substantially
transformed through the creation of networks which have led to greater access to
training and knowledge (Perez Perez and Martnez Sanchez, 2002). One of the
distinguishing features of lean enterprises is, precisely, their different purchasing
philosophy and a higher level of trust in supplier relations (Helper and Sako, 1995;
Sako and Helper, 1998). This is manifested in supplier associations that constitute
relatively stable groups and represent the entire population of recipients of supplier
development assistance in some shape or form (Sako, 1996). Through these
associations the achievement of time compression in the supply chain and the
outsourcing of competitive advantages is facilitated (Rich and Hines, 1997; Hines and
Rich, 1998). Furthermore, the presence of these associations, together with some lean
practices (such as value stream mapping), allows companies to work with suppliers
more quickly and more effectively (Hines et al., 1999). In addition, a lean company
becomes a good source of information on best practice and is in a position to teach the
know-how required to enhance suppliers organisational capabilities (Sako, 2004).

Learning on lean




On the other hand, empirical evidence shows that suppliers who have adopted LP
achieve significant improvements in aspects such as the production system, the
distribution system, the quality system, information systems, transport systems,
customer/supplier relations and delivery times compared to others who have not yet
adopted LP (Wu, 2003; Gonzalez-Benito et al., 2003).
The implementation of this system also involves a reduction in the number of
suppliers. The system differentiates between three supplier groups (first, second and
third tier) and considers that the basic relationships should be between the
manufacturers and first tier suppliers (Womack et al., 1990; Wu, 2003). It is precisely
these relationships that have been profoundly influenced by the implementation of LP
and by the development of modularisation in some sectors, such as the automotive
industry, and have led to the development of supplier parks (Morris et al., 2004). Some
of the problems that occur with this system, such as urban congestion, air pollution
and communication, will be overcome in this way (Rothenberg et al., 2001; King and
Lenox, 2001).
Relationships should not only exist between manufacturers and first tier suppliers
but should extend to second and third tier suppliers, as they have favourable effects on
the companys overall results (Lyons et al., 2004). In this respect, there are a number of
papers that demonstrate the favourable effect of adopting the various information and
communication technologies (EDI, ERP, etc.) throughout the supply chain (Bruun and
Mefford, 2003; Martnez Sanchez and Perez Perez, 2004; Gunasekaran and Ngai, 2005).
The scheduling of batch operations in first and second tier suppliers of the supply
chain was identified as a key problem area in a lean environment (Bicheno et al., 2001).
SCM is, precisely, closely linked to LP as it pursues similar objectives (Levy, 1997). This
similarity has led to the term lean logistics being coined to refer to the ability to design and
run a logistics system to monitor the movements and geographical location of raw
materials, products in process and finished products, with the lowest levels of inventory
and cost (Bowersox et al., 1993). This concept alludes to the need to understand waste and
inefficiency in existing value streams, generating a new framework called value stream
mapping. This approach is used to diagnose waste and help organisations and value
streams to make subsequent radical or incremental improvements (Jones et al., 1997).
From an empirical point-of-view, a direct relationship has been seen between the
adoption of LP and two key aspects for the integration of the supply chain, which are:
the integration of information flows and of goods and service flows (Cagliano et al.,
2006). This means that companies that redesign their systems with the introduction of
lean-related practices also achieve increased integration with their suppliers thanks to
increased information exchange and modifications to their supply strategy. In this way
companies manage to align their manufacturing and supply strategies and exploit the
benefits of a coherent production and SCM model. Nevertheless, it is possible that the
adoption of lean practices increases supply chain risk, making it necessary to also
increase supply chain confidence by improving the quality of supply chain information
(Christopher and Lee, 2004).
There are similarly authors who speak of a lean supply chain. A lean supply chain
makes use of continuous improvement to focus on the elimination of waste or non-value
added steps in the supply chain. It is supported by the reduction of set up times to allow
for the economic production of small quantities, thereby achieving cost reduction,
flexibility and internal responsiveness (Booth, 1996). It is primarily aimed at cost cutting,

flexibility and incremental improvements in products. Therefore, in order to obtain the

highest internal performance and customer satisfaction, standard products should
be designed by lean supply chains through all stages of the product life cycle, while
innovative products should be designed and produced by lean supply chains in the
maturity and decline stages of the product life cycle (Vonderembse et al., 2006).
Moreover, in lean supply chains it is convenient to use lot splitting strategies, i.e. the
splitting of a single order quantity into multiple deliveries. This will improve the
suppliers delivery reliability and, consequently, the stability of the buyers production
schedule (van Nieuwenhuyse and Vandaele, 2006). Indeed, thanks to LP, the best
customer service performance is achieved (measured by order-to-ship time, and as long
as demand is smooth and can be predicted with a relatively high degree of accuracy)
(Goldsby et al., 2006).
3.3 Work organisation in lean production
With regard to research on the implications that LP has for work organisation, a group
of papers has been identified too. The analysis of this group has led us to distinguish
four subgroups depending on the work organisation topic that is being emphasised
(Table VI).
3.3.1 Degree of human resource commitment to lean production. There are a number
of papers that clearly state the importance that worker commitment to the company
has for this system (Cusumano, 1994; Harrison and Storey, 1996; Gagnon and Michael,
2003; Suzuki, 2004). In lean companies workers take on responsibilities that go beyond
the bounds of production tasks and pay is based more on workers abilities than on the
number of operations they carry out (Duguay et al., 1997). Companies changing from a
traditional manufacturing structure to a lean structure in fact have a generally
positive effect on job attitudes (Groebner and Merz, 1994). LP maintains that worker
motivation is based on social relationships in order to satisfy their needs (Niepce and
Molleman, 1996).
Notwithstanding, other authors focus on an analysis of the degree of managerial
commitment to the system. So, Soriano-Meier and Forrester (2002) consider that said
commitment must be a basic principle of LP since, as Zayko et al. (1997) proved, the
first obstacle and main issue when implementing LP is a lack of management
conviction in the benefits it provides. Boyer (1996) was one of the first authors to
analyse this aspect by devising four indicators to measure the degree of managerial
commitment to the system: leadership in quality, setting up improvement groups, the
on-going training of workers, and the delegation of responsibility to the workers. His
empirical results indicate that companies that have a high level of commitment to LP at
the same time back this commitment up by making investments in the above
mentioned indicators. According to Niepce and Molleman (1996) and de Treville and
Antonakis (2006), such a commitment turns into intrinsic motivation.
3.3.2 Work system in lean production. For the favourable effects of LP to be
achieved, the work does require the operative to master a wide range of skills and to be
highly identified with the task, with a large degree of feedback and the elimination of
the obstacles that stand in the way of the results that the worker might achieve, with
the consequent contribution of resources by way of the required instruments.
Differences in work systems between companies applying LP and others that keep
to a traditional management model do not lay in aspects affecting hierarchy but in the

Learning on lean


Table VI.
Topics on work
organisation analysed
in LP literature


Work system

Role of supervisors in delegating authority to


Differences between lean and traditional companies

Positive effect on responsible autonomy

Influence of LP on job variety

Positive influence on motivation

Role of trade unions in LP

Degree of worker commitment to LP

Firms support LP through efforts to provide quality

leadership, training of the workforce, worker
empowerment and the use of small teams for group
problem solving
Lean producers manage the creativity and initiative of
a substantial proportion of their workforce
Employees with increased knowledge of LP show
increased levels of commitment, job satisfaction and
Change to JIT has a positive effect on job attitudes

Key finding of the research


The decision to implement LP reflects conflicts in

labour and management relations
de Treville and LP job design may engender worker intrinsic
Antonakis (2006) motivation
Niepce and
Motivation for LP tends to be externally oriented due
Molleman (1996) to LP leaning heavily on social relationships in order to
satisfy the needs of the workers
LP increases job variety by transferring the maximum
number of tasks to operators
de Treville et al. LP promotes the involvement of workers in the
development of procedures
Vidal (2007)
LP increases individual autonomy and collective
Forza (1996)
Lean companies use more teams in problem solving,
the workers perform a higher variety of tasks and that
the proportion of implemented suggestions is greater
than in traditional companies
Lowe (1993)
Under LP the responsibility of the supervisor increases

Groebner and
Merz (1994)
Lee (2003)

Duguay et al.
Gagnon and
Michael (2003)

Boyer (1996)



Degree of human
Degree of managerial commitment to LP
resource commitment



Human resource



Key finding of the research

Biazzo and
The elements of work organisation are those which are
Pannizzolo (2000) coherent with, and functional for, the no buffer logic
and continuous flow production
Features and responsibilities of lean teams
Delbridge et al.
It is important to distinguish between the roles of
members and leaders within teams, and between the
responsibilities of production teams and those of other
occupational groups
Schuring (1996) Lean and reflective production underline the
importance of the operational skills of work group
Thompson and Teamworking emerges as a key factor in redesigning
Wallace (1996)
Influence of team development in business
Kuipers et al.
Team development is just as important as good
performance and quality of working life
production structure design, although it requires a
favourable context
Influence of LP practices related to job demands, job Conti et al. (2006) LP is not inherently stressful, with stress levels
control and social support for worker job stress
significantly related to management decisions in
designing and operating LP systems
Effect of LP on human resource management
Hiltrop (1992)
Traditional human resource management practices
must adapt to achieve the advantages of LP
Effect of LP on human resource management in small Emiliani (2000)
The owners of small businesses must understand the
implications of LP for leadership and human resource
management. They have a responsibility to teach their
employees and reinforce their leadership role
Development of human resource practices in
Kochan et al.
The development of human resource practices
companies where LP has been implemented
stimulates the degree of commitment of employees to
LP and their participation
Effect of LP on reshaping work practices
Lewchuk et al.
LP offers a production model dependent on a
reconfiguration of labour control methods

Value given to work organisation


Learning on lean


Table VI.

Table VI.

Source: Authors

Effect of loss of job stability on LP work system

Fairris and
Tohyama (2002)

Negative effects of LP practices on the quality of

working life

Suzuki (2004)

Schouteten and
Benders (2004)

Parker (2003)

Klein (1989)

LaScola et al.

Value given to human capital in lean companies

Rises in intensity of work, stress, loss of autonomy



Design of a model to assess human capital in a LP

environment showing how to use it to drive training
requirements, change hiring practices, assign workers
and establish compensation and reward systems
Workers lose much of their freedom with the
regimentation required by LP. To mitigate this it is
necessary to focus on task design rather than on
execution and give workers the right to move and
To avoid the negative effects of LP on the human
factor, the adoption of better mechanisms for hearing
the voice of the workers would be required
The negative effects of LP (poor quality work design,
decline in organisational commitment) are attributable
to declines in perceived work characteristics ( job
autonomy, skill utilisation and participation in
decision making)
Work in lean environments is monotonous and
repetitive, which means that people who oppose LP are
In the LP work system, the employment ratio of
temporary workers has increased rapidly and the
worker ratio of long-term employment is decreasing

Key finding of the research


Unfavourable effects
on human resources



use of more work teams to solve problems, in adopting workers suggestions, in much
better documented work processes and in a wider range of tasks done by operatives
and in a better quality relationship between workers and supervisors (Forza, 1996).
The emerging role of supervisors is standing in the way of the principle of delegating
authority to the workers (Lowe, 1993). The workers work hard to meet objectives set by
the supervisors who are under continual scrutiny at efficiency meetings
(Kochan et al., 1997).
The success of teamworking depends on the positive interrelationship with
industrial relations and firm company governance (Thompson and Wallace, 1996).
Nevertheless, teamworking provides group pressure that stimulates performance. LP
underlines the importance of work team members operational skills. That is why
qualifications are essential for LP, but not only based on the transmission of skills and
knowledge of the job itself, but also on permanent on-going training, upward
occupational mobility, and task rotation. It is also necessary to achieve and foment a
culture of cooperation (Schuring, 1996).
LP involves an increase in job variety (Schonberger, 1986) which means a fall in
stress (Conti et al., 2006) and an increase in responsible autonomy (de Treville et al.,
2005). With regard to an effect on autonomy, a distinction must be made between the
autonomy to choose (Hackman and Lawler, 1971) and responsible autonomy
(de Treville et al., 2005). There should be little of the former, which relates to the free
choice of procedures and times, whereas there should be a high degree of responsible
autonomy, which refers to autonomy derived from a decentralisation of authority,
power-sharing and taking part in decision making. Vidal (2007), however,
demonstrates that worker empowerment is not a necessary condition for achieving a
lean manufacturing system that yields considerable improvements in performance.
These non-conclusive results may be explained by the limited degree of in-depth
research. Researchers will have to join work teams to get first-hand experience of their
work conditions and see how they work (Biazzo and Panizzolo, 2000). In the same vein,
Kuipers et al. (2004) note that the debate between advocates of LP and the
socio-technical approach have concentrated too much on the design aspect of the
production structure, while neglecting the development aspect of teamwork.
Effectively, if difficulties in implementing and developing work teams have been
underestimated, the likelihood that they will fail will increase, and the team will gain a
bad reputation (Thompson and Wallace, 1996). Empirical evidence found that team
development determines business performance and the quality of working life to a very
great degree (Kuipers et al., 2004).
3.3.3 Human resource management with lean production. Despite the opinions
supporting the importance of worker training and the commitment of workers to
the type of management, a consensus does not exist in the literature about the way the
introduction of LP might affect human resource management (Hiltrop, 1992). So,
the implementation of this system in small- and medium-sized companies depends to a
large degree on the perception that owners have of what it involves for human resource
management (Emiliani, 2000).
LP offers a model of production dependant on a reconfiguration of methods of
labour control (Lewchuk et al., 2001). As a result, unions should work together with
management to devise the best way for implementing lean work (Kochan et al., 1997).
Precisely, LaScola et al. (2002) designed a human capital assessment system applicable

Learning on lean




in lean environments. First, a database has to be set up in the company which records
the skills and abilities of each of the workers. These skills are grouped into three
categories: technical (basic knowledge, mathematics, measures, etc.), human (personal
qualities, social skills, etc.) and lean (knowledge of Lean principles, pull systems and
improvements). Once said staff skills are known, the most appropriate training
programmes should be devised, each worker assigned to the most suitable post, and a
reward and prize system set up.
3.3.4 Unfavourable effects on human resources. One of the negative effects of LP on
the human factor that can be highlighted is the fact that work becomes more intense
with increased stress and a loss of autonomy and freedom for deciding whether to take
risks or not (Klein, 1989). Parker (2003) found negative effects on employee outcomes
after the implementation of LP practices which were attributable to a decline in the
quality of working life. This could be related to the fact that in lean environments work
is monotonous and repetitive (Schouteten and Benders, 2004). Likewise it is foreseeable
that downsizing the number of stable jobs will have an unfavourable effect on lean
work (Suzuki, 2004). In this respect, Fairris and Tohyama (2002) found that in order to
avoid the negative effects of LP on the human factor, the adoption of better
mechanisms for hearing the voice of the workers would be required.
3.4 Impact of the geographical context on lean production
A group of papers have been found in the literature that analyse the impact of the
geographical context on LP, as summarised in Table VII.
All these findings suggest that the different results that derive from the adoption of
LP are related to the countrys economic context and this coincides with Williams et al.
(1992) who point to structural problems being responsible for variations in results.
Engstrom et al. (1996) consider that the success of LP in Japan can be attributed to the
favourable conjunction of the socio-economic and socio-cultural contexts there. Said
authors suggest that the great challenge is to develop a management system which,
while benefiting from all the advantages of LP, can be incorporated into the
socio-economic and socio-cultural context of the new industrial society.
4. Conclusions and further lines of research
This paper develops a new model considering all the elements that should be included
in an extended and comprehensive understanding of LP. To this end, research on LP
published to date has been analysed, resulting in the proposal of four groups of aspects
that contribute to gaining a deeper understanding of the evolution of thinking and
research on LP. The novelty of the model proposed is that it shows research on LP on a
broader basis than the shop floor and value chain levels, presenting two new
dimensions for the analysis of research on LP: work organisation in lean environments
and the impact of the geographical context on LP.
In addition, as a result of the bibliographical analysis, some specific aspects have
been identified that must be highlighted since they seem to lack empirical evidence
and, therefore, might represent new opportunities for rigorous and relevant research
that would contribute to more transparent knowledge of the system.
First, and with regard to internal aspects, we believe it is possible that new
principles might foreseeably be added in the future, as was the case with managerial
commitment (Soriano-Meier and Forrester, 2002). Although not considered until

Empirical background of the study

Results of adopting LP

72 Australian manufacturing companies

Better geared to the customer through

flexible manufacturing structure


Sohal and
A company which has adopted a variety Sohal (1996)
A manufacturer of windscreen wiper
of LP concepts has become more
systems for the automotive industry in
profitable, more competitive and more
Oliver et al.
71 plants in the automotive components Better economic results but no
industry in the European Union and Japan improvements in quality or productivity (1996)
compared to England
Moreno (1999)
Results depend on social context of
Japanese model of production (Toyota
country where implemented and
case) compared to Swedish model of
acceptance of the effort required by
production (Volvo case)
production personnel
Investigates the shift from traditional firm The time when the model is introduced
determines whether it is accepted or
production to LP by an analysis of the
rejected by the workers and, therefore,
change in Dutch input-output tables
also determines results
584 private sector enterprises in Australia Greater commitment to training and
Smith et al.
development on all levels
50 auto component firms in South Africa Important advances in the automotive
Kojima and
industry in this country
200 manufacturing firms in Egypt
Implementation of LP improves
operations performance of Egyptian
manufacturing firms
Portioli and
183 manufacturing firms in Italy
Companies implementing LP present a
different view of competitive aspects, and Tatardini
rely on different improvement actions to (2008)
increase competitiveness. In particular,
lean implementors give much more
relevance to quality conformity and
delivery reliability than non lean
Source: Authors

fairly recently, perhaps due to its being taken as read, it is of fundamental importance.
The same could occur with other aspects, and, as a result, neither should this grouping
be considered closed just because it is a mature line of research.
With regard to the implementation process of LP, there is a large degree of
consensus about the need for LP to be implemented sequentially (Ferdows and de
Meyer, 1990; Storhagen, 1993; Womack and Jones, 1996; Zayko et al., 1997).
Nevertheless, the authors recognise that the change from a traditional system to LP
might differ substantially from one company to another (Kochan et al., 1997). It is
therefore essential for the situation the shop floor is into be assessed before applying
LP, as this would allow a number of deficiencies that need to be overcome to be
identified before it is implemented. This stage could be considered a pre-lean phase
which, once concluded, would allow LP to be implemented with a greater chance of
success. With regard to the results of implementation, some questions then arise:

Learning on lean


Table VII.
Impact of the
context on LP



what differences can be expected from companies that had been through the pre-lean
phase and others that had not? Even more importantly, what differences can be
expected from sectors where LP has hardly been implemented at all? Developing and
validating a questionnaire for diagnosing this could be an interesting line of research.
In addition, a variety of terms connected with lean philosophy in recent times have
been coined. Such is the case of the Lean-sigma concept that is being put forward as a
management philosophy based on integrating LP principles and practices with
six sigma tools (Shah and Ward, 2007). Empirical research should be conducted in the
future to confirm the validity of these new concepts that stress the importance of the
goal of zero defects.
With respect to research on the impact of LP on the value chain, it has been found that
it affects the external organisation of companies (Engstrom et al., 1996). Papers that have
studied these organisational changes on an external level point to a vertical
reorganisation process characterised by the externalisation of phases and segments of
the productive cycle that had previously been executed internally (Helper and Sako,
1995; Kochan et al., 1997). This process of vertical reorganisation also affects the
commercial area and has led to a new concept of relations with suppliers and customers
alike based on long-term collaboration agreements ( Jones et al., 1997). As a result, it
would be interesting to conduct research on supplier relationships to see whether
differences can be found between results obtained by suppliers in supplier parks and
other suppliers with the application of LP. It is similarly necessary to find out what the
features of LP distribution and application are in these companies. This would allow
knowledge to be gained of how the principles of LP are applied in this important part of
the value chain, what role is played by knowledge and the transmission of the final
customers opinion, and of the effect on the rest of the value chain.
Focusing on the two new dimensions proposed for building an extended model of LP,
it can be noted that research on work organisation in LP should be developed in greater
depth. Despite the importance that worker commitment to the company has for LP, we
have seen how researchers are not unanimous about the way LP affects human resources,
and recent research still attests to opposite effects (Conti et al., 2006; de Treville et al.,
2005). Moreover, the specific reality of the job per se is not approached apart from the
performance ratio-based perspective (Biazzo and Panizzolo, 2000). In our opinion, this
means that Babsons (1999) view that work organisation in LP has not been sufficiently
developed is still valid. Nevertheless, a significant relationship between the success of
implementing LP and worker identification with the strategy has been observed (Gagnon
and Michael, 2003), and in order to avoid the negative effects of LP practices on the human
factor, research on opinions, on approaches to, and on divergences from the system, from
management, workers, and trade unions, would therefore seem appropriate.
On the impact that the geographical context has on LP, the spread of this system
means competitive advantages are being gained by companies where it has been
implemented over those that still adhere to a traditional management system. In other
respects, globalisation is displacing production to countries with lower structural and
labour costs, which means that there is a need to implement management models that
allow the level of competitiveness to be maintained. LP is a management system that
could provide the necessary competitive advantages and, as such, the extent to which
the system is in use in each of the countries needs to be known. The degree to which LP
has been implemented in different countries therefore needs to be researched.

In general terms, we think a large number of papers on the degree of adoption of LP

is required, and also on the results obtained in the most significant industries in a given
geographical area, as this would both guide and, where need be, encourage
management to adopt LP in their companies. Similar studies should also be conducted
in the service sector, comparing the results obtained in product improvement, service
quality and customer satisfaction between companies that have implemented LP and
others that still have not. Likewise, the availability of the information provided by a
simulation model (Abdulmalek and Rajgopal, 2007) could facilitate and validate the
decision to implement LP and could also motivate the company during the
implementation in order to obtain the desired results. Likewise, it is necessary to do
more detailed research on the adoption of LP in public services and government. In
other regards, there is increasing concern for the factors that underlie the sustainability
of LP (Emiliani, 2008b; Hines et al., 2008b) and for the way executives should take any
lean transformation forward (Emiliani, 2008a), to be identified, both of which are
aspects that will guide the directions future research will take.

1. Krafcik (1986) had the experience of having previously worked in the development of the
assembly plant benchmarking methodology in a New United Motor Manufacturing joint
venture between Toyota and GM.

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implementations within SMEs, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management,
Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 460-71.
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Further reading
. and Perez Perez, P.M. (2001), Lean indicators and manufacturing
Martnez Sanchez, A
strategies, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 21 No. 11,
pp. 1433-51.
About the authors
Jose Moyano-Fuentes is Associate Professor of Management at the Department of Business
Organization, Marketing and Sociology at the University of Jaen (Spain). He currently conducts
research on lean production, supply chain management and company performance in the
automotive industry. He is also interested in the role of technology in organisations, with current
emphasis involving social networking influence on employees acceptance of technology. His
research has appeared in the Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management Studies,
International Journal of Management Reviews, Small Business Economics, International Journal
of Technology Management, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management and Technovation.
Jose Moyano-Fuentes is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
Macarena Sacristan-Daz is Associate Professor of Operations Management at the
Department of Financial Economics and Operations Management at the University of Seville.
She has been involved in various research projects in the areas of AMT, SCM and performance.
Her current research focuses on lean production and on SCM. Her articles have appeared in major
international journals such as the International Journal of Operations & Production
Management, the Journal of Operations Management, the International Journal of Production
Research, and the International Journal of Production Economics.

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