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The evolution of production systems and conceptual frameworks

Afonso Fleury (Production Engineering Department, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Maria Tereza Fleury (School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 30 October 2007



The development of a conceptual framework for the study of production systems in general derived from the analysis of the telecommunications industry; since this industry is considered as one of the pillars of the coming information society and knowledge economy, the application of that framework to other industries and production systems brings insights as to their recent changes and future trends. This paper looks at the stream of frameworks proposed for production and operations management, with the intent of contributing to the debate by addressing the following question: would an analytical framework derived from the telecommunications industry have distinct features relative to the analytic frameworks currently in use?


Following a literature review of the evolution of the telecommunications industry, the framework (TbF for telecommunications‐based framework) was built from scratch, using grounded theory, case studies and Delphi methods. The field for research was the Brazilian Telecommunications industry, considered as a microcosm of the whole industry. The TbF was then applied to the automobile and textile/apparel industries for illustration purposes.


The TbF is composed by six types of companies, characterised by distinct profiles of organisational competences, interacting according to some specific patterns of relationships. Compared to the most commonly used conceptual frameworks, the TbF allows for critical assessments in regards to their basic assumptions and reveals ways to evolve in direction of more dynamic approaches to the study of production systems.

Research limitations/implications

As all other conceptual frameworks, the TbF is a simplification of reality and so its use requires a clear view of its assumptions. In regards to generalisation, the main assumption of the TbF is that other industries and production systems are accelerating their “clockspeeds” over time. As to the TbF's limitations, the main drawback relates to its development being derived from the most “traditional” segment of the telecommunications industry. This led to the exclusion of the internet‐enabled industries which promise a great impact in the near future.

Practical implications

The main contribution is for practical work in the academic and consultancy spheres, because what is under investigation is the way in which knowledge about production systems is being produced. The use of the TbF might disclose the limitations of the most commonly used conceptual frameworks and reveal ways to produce knowledge which is more aligned to the dynamism and complexity of production systems now and in the future.


The TbF is original in its structure. Its value in the creation of knowledge which is relevant and applicable still depends on further development.



Fleury, A. and Tereza Fleury, M. (2007), "The evolution of production systems and conceptual frameworks", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 18 No. 8, pp. 949-965.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited