Dieste Gracia, Marcos (2019) The impact of lean practices on the environmental performance of manufacturing companies. [Ph.D. thesis]
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Abstract (italian or english)
Lean production has emerged in the past decades as one of the most popular subjects in business and manufacturing literature and it is the most widespread production paradigm currently applied in industry. The lean paradigm is characterized by five principles (value, mapping the value stream, flow, pull and continuous improvement) and by the relevance of reducing waste (muda). In parallel, the environmental performance of a company in terms of pollution prevention and reduction of the use and waste of resources is an issue increasingly concerning both firms and customers in recent years. This focus on these topics has fostered an area of research that it is frequently acknowledged as green production. Lean and green production paradigms are both focused on waste reduction and various scholars have studied their relationships (common points and divergences) and the synergic effects of joining these two management approaches. However, the impact of lean practices on environmental performance is still unclear, as limited empirical research has been conducted in this field. From this idea arises the aim of this research, which is to analyse the relationship between lean and environmental performance in manufacturing with a strong empirical focus. This research was carried out in two main stages: a review of the relevant literature as an exploration stage and a multiple case study analysis in five manufacturing companies to empirically analyse the aforementioned impacts. Onsite data were collected from firms during a time span of research of five years, involving archival data and developing semi-structured interviews. Besides, a cross-case analysis was carried out to map the possible relationships between lean practices and environmental measures. The findings of this thesis indicate that the environmental performance of the companies analysed is generally enhanced in the long-term after the implementation of lean practices. Moreover, the results from the multiple case study suggest that the environmental performance of the firms under study is mainly improved using JIT and TQM practices in a lean transformation context. These results are perfectly aligned with the preliminary evidences obtained in the literature review analysis developed in this thesis and provides robustness to the conclusions obtained. The research findings provide a better understanding of the phenomena, unveil new evidences and can be particularly useful for both researchers and practitioners who are facing the challenge of studying and implementing lean without omitting environmental performance goals, sharing efforts as much as possible.
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