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Partial and iterative Lean implementation: two case studies

David Bamford (The Business School, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)
Paul Forrester (Keele Management School, Keele University, Keele, UK.)
Benjamin Dehe (The Business School, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)
Rebecca Georgina Leese (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Manchester, UK.)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 1 May 2015

4246

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the implementation of lean within two contrasting UK-based organizations; a food manufacturer and a healthcare organization. The different contexts provide insight to the strategic desire for efficiency gains and tactical issues and challenges of lean execution and implementation.

Design/methodology/approach

The research questions developed from the review of the literature were tested using evidence from field-based, action research within a food manufacturer and a National Health Service organization. The reported contrasting case studies contribute to the longer term debate on the adoption and adaptation of lean-based “best practice” within organizations.

Findings

There are three primary findings: first, that the adoption of lean provides a strategic benefit, as well as providing a basis for a strategy of operational change; second, that partial, as opposed to full, adoption of lean occurs due to external organizational constraints, such as demand patterns, supplier unreliability, little expertise in deploying change programmes, etc.; and third, that a company will balance the adoption of the lean ideology against the financial costs and operational risks incurred in full adoption.

Practical implications

The conclusions drawn add substantially to the ongoing commentaries on aspects of lean, and develop interesting questions for future research regards the developed “Cycles of Lean Implementation” concept.

Originality/value

The conclusion proposes that partial implementation of the lean philosophy does not necessarily represent a conscious organizational choice, or any lack of conviction, but is representative of external constraints on the organization. This complements previous commentaries on appropriate strategies and develops interesting questions for future research into operational efficiency.

Keywords

Citation

Bamford, D., Forrester, P., Dehe, B. and Leese, R.G. (2015), "Partial and iterative Lean implementation: two case studies", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 702-727. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-07-2013-0329

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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