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The mediating effect of lean management on the relationship between flexibility implementation and operational metrics in US automotive manufacturing plants

Raed EL-Khalil (Department of Information Technology and Operations Management, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 29 August 2018

Issue publication date: 15 October 2018



The purpose of this paper is to identify the mediating effect of lean management (LM) dimensions on the relationship between flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) dimensions and operational performance metrics.


A survey questionnaire was developed based on previous literature and interviews conducted at the automotive facilities visited that identified 28 lean dimensions, 15 flexibility dimensions and 8 operational performance metrics. The survey was presented to 175 North American automotive manufacturing managers through interviews conducted at 64 automotive facilities. A total of 164 usable responses were studied.


Lean and FMS are multi-dimensional philosophies, the results demonstrate that the automotive industry in North America has implemented many dimensions of both philosophies. Each dimension is categorized based on specific organizational metrics. The 64 facilities studied use common dimensions identified by this study for lean and flexibility. Data analysis indicates a direct link between lean, flexibility and operational metrics. It shows that LM plays a critical role in improving the impact of flexibility on performance metrics. The results also indicate that specific lean and FMS dimensions or categories have higher significant roles than others in the relationship between LM, FMS and operational performance metrics.

Research limitations/implications

Since the sample size only considered automotive manufacturing facilities, the results need to be considered with caution.


This research empirically develops a framework linking FMS and LM to operational performance metrics. This research addresses an area within which there is little consensus on the relationship between LM, FMS and their impact on operational performance metrics. The study is unique due to the depth and breadth of the investigation that far exceeds previous literature conducted. In addition, this research highlights the LM and FMS practices on which managers should focus on when attempting to improve operational performance metrics at their facility.



EL-Khalil, R. (2018), "The mediating effect of lean management on the relationship between flexibility implementation and operational metrics in US automotive manufacturing plants", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 29 No. 8, pp. 1376-1399.



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