Towards lean transformation: The analysis of lean implementation frameworks

Tick Fei Chay*, Yu Chun Xu, Ashutosh Tiwari, Foo Soon Chay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose - Failure in engaging shop floor employees (including supervisory staff) in lean, lacking of supervisory skills in leading workers and lacking of lean technical knowhow among the shop floor employees are some of the major obstacles in lean transformation. One of the reasons of inefficient lean transformation is the shortages in frameworks or plans in implementing lean. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the shortfalls in the current lean implementation frameworks. Design/methodology/approach - The frameworks were analysed according to the following criteria: first, "What" is the approach of lean implementation, i.e. top-down or bottom-up; second, "How" to implement lean (description of steps or sequences of lean implementation along the lean journey); third, "Why" - the reason of adoption of the proposed lean tools, techniques or practices (thereafter TTPs) in each phase of lean implementation; and fourth, "Who" are the targeted internal stakeholders to use or apply the lean TTPs that were proposed in the frameworks. Findings - Most of the current available lean frameworks were prone to top-down approach but not bottom-up. Improvement initiatives from the shop floor employees were often overlooked by researchers. In proposing their frameworks, most of the researchers have neglected the importance of "Why" aspect in the adoption of TTPs or the framework itself without giving the "reason" for each of the elements in lean implementation. Besides the aspects of "What" and "How", the mentioned "Why" aspect is important in contributing to capability building among the shop floor employees in carrying out improvement, problem-solving or waste elimination activities. The aspect of "Who should carry out which lean TTP" was somewhat not emphasised by most of the lean researchers. In addition, the current frameworks were prone to "one-best-way" approach with lacking of contingency sense, which is one of the common criticisms against Lean Production System. Originality/value - This paper provides a critical view on the shortfalls of current lean implementation frameworks, and proposes an insight of new criteria for future research in analysing and proposing new lean implementation framework towards lean transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1052
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Technology Management
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2015


  • Bottom-up approach
  • Contingency
  • Employee involvement
  • Framework
  • Lean production
  • Lean transformation


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