The academic literature and research lines exploring the effect of quality improvement methods on environmental performance still remain in early stages. The purpose of this paper is therefore to investigate, through a systematic review of the existing academic literature, the environmental (green) impact of using quality and operations improvement methods such as Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. This includes the impact on energy saving and the usage of natural resources.
This study follows a systematic literature review approach through which it analyses research papers published in top 16 operations and quality management journals. No specific time frame was established, but a set of keywords were used to short-list the articles. A sample of 70 articles was finally short-listed and analysed to provide a discussion on environmental concerns related to Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma.
The comprehensive review of short-listed articles indicates that both Lean and Six Sigma can be considered effective methods to support the conservation of resources, combat global warming and saving energy. Various scholars provide evidence of this, and as such, organisations should not only consider these methods to manage quality and improve operational performance but also meet environmental regulations. A set of research questions that demands further investigation has also been proposed based on the findings of this research.
This study is limited to a sample of 70 articles collected from top 16 operations and quality management journals. The search of journals is also limited to a set of key words (“Lean”, “Green”, “Six Sigma”, “environment”, “sustainable” and “sustainability”) used to short-list the sample size.
The study shows that organisations can consider the adoption of Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma to meet environmental regulations, save costs and also meet quality management standards. This will contribute in helping organisations to formulate more effective and inclusive strategies which do not only consider the quality and operational dimensions but also the environmental dimension.
Literature exploring the environmental/green impact of quality management methods commonly used in industry is limited. There is also a lack of studies aiming to investigate the green impact of Lean and Six Sigma in top operations and quality management journals. The study focusing on investigating the green impact of Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma methods altogether is also a research first of its kind.
Chugani, N., Kumar, V., Garza-Reyes, J.A., Rocha-Lona, L. and Upadhyay, A. (2017), "Investigating the green impact of Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma: A systematic literature review", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 7-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLSS-11-2015-0043
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