Lean thinking and the factors necessary for its success
Thesis DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Lean management is becoming the standard for systematic productivity improvement, but the majority of implementations fail to sustain. Hence, the critical success factors for lean were the focus of this work. Literature review showed that the causality for lean success was not empirically developed beyond case study contextualisation. A multifaceted work was developed with contextualisation studies, survey of lean knowledge (758 responses), and a comprehensive case-study questionnaire (1253 responses from 44 countries). The statistical methods included exploratory factor analysis and path analysis by structural equation modelling (SEM). The first questionnaire revealed two different understandings of lean, and the second explored the underlying causality for lean success, including contingency for business size and product variety. Many contributions to the body of knowledge issued from this work. First of all, there was a methodological contribution, pioneering explorative structural modelling of full scope lean implementation. Second, SEMs of the lean knowledge-based view showed the profound positive effects of management knowledge on the primary factors for lean success. These factors were shown to be leadership and employee development. Third, the most beneficial lean methods were highlighted for specific scenarios. Fourth, the negligible and negative effects of a consultant-based approach to lean were uncovered. The results showed that the majority of consultants did not aid the long-term performance and sustainability of lean but significantly hindered it, except where masterful consultants acted as coaches. Fifth, a shortage of lean knowledge was observed in New Zealand; their participants averaged only half of what the USA�s did. Sixth, as culture has been emphasised in current literature, the present danger of overly focusing on it was discussed. Seventh was a conceptual contribution integrating lean and risk management, and a practical application with a risk analysis. This developed a risk matrix for the assessment and prioritisation of implementation components. Eighth, some adjustments to government lean strategies were proposed. And finally, the work integrated the findings in a tangible stage process model for implementation in SMEs. The dissemination of this knowledge has the potential to enhance productivity and commercial success of industries in New Zealand and abroad through successful lean implementations. Lean is not a weak methodology but it has been misunderstood and misapplied.