Lean Production

Topics: Lean manufacturing, Manufacturing, Toyota Production System Pages: 35 (6958 words) Published: August 17, 2014




Sociologists searching for a model form of work organisation which claims to improve organizational performance and gain competitive advantage, whilst improving workers‟ experience of the employment relationship, have encountered a difficult challenge. The high performance model is seen by a number of practitioners and researchers as the latest attempt to construct an alternative to Taylorism and lean production. Advocates of the high performance workplace (HPW) argue that it places greater emphasis on skill acquisition, opportunities to utilise skills, employee involvement and influence than lean work places.

Appelbaum et al. (2000), in their US-based study, report evidence of a positive correlation between HPW and job satisfaction. Ramsay et al. (2000), however, found, in their analysis of the 1998 UK Workplace Employee Relations Survey, that while there was a positive association between HPW and gains in organisational performance, employees experienced greater levels of stress, insecurity and work effort. This negative pattern of employee experience was again evident in the 2004 WERS data and was also identified in Danford et al.‟s (2005), study of partnershipand the HPW in the UK aerospace industry. Notably, they argued that increased management control and decreased employee security were “inherent features of the HPW” (Danford et al., 2005, p. 239).

Jenner (1998) writes that Lean production system has been successful worldwide because it is a self-organizing and a dynamic system. With a flexible, creative and adaptive


structure that occur in a wide range of physical and biological fields. But the lean system is poised at a delicate balance between chaotic behaviour and order.

Managers have to use the principles as guidelines for transforming their own organization into flexible, lean, self-organizing structures. Since each principle must be adapted to the specific circumstances and characteristics in each organization the most effective results would be achieved if each principle were introduced with careful monitoring of results and with continual modification and experimentation of each change to determine the approach that works best in each setting. Schonberger (2006) writes that in most companies the lean management is only skin-deep and relies only on consultants with insufficiency employee involvement. The companies often lack of larger ideas in how to work with lean, the limitation is to sustain the energy to work on an idea, and that could be traced back to not enough encouragement.

Lean manufacturing (LM) practices remains the universal alternative for an efficient production manufacturing, leading to distinctive business performance of companies. This paper will look into the role of workers experience, skill, training and participation in mediating the effect of lean production on business performance.

LM is defined as an assembly-line manufacturing methodology developed originally for Toyota and the manufacture of automobiles. It is also commonly referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS). Its aim is to get the right things to the right place at the right time, also to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process. The principles of lean manufacturing were developed by Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota engineer. In addition, principles allow the company to meet demand, reduce


inventory, maximize the use of multi-skilled workers, flatten the management structure and focus resources where needed (Chen and Taylor, 2009).

The successful implementation of lean practices has become accepted by Toyota as source of competitive advantage (Doolen and Hacker, 2005; Womack et al. 1990). There are several studies that have examined the effects of lean on performance. The results showed that lean practices might not be universally valid in all organizational contexts (Boyle et al.,...

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