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Lean implementation within SMEs: a literature review

Hu, Qing, Mason, Robert John ORCID:, Williams, Sharon Jayne and Found, Pauline ORCID: 2015. Lean implementation within SMEs: a literature review. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management 26 (7) , pp. 980-1012. 10.1108/JMTM-02-2014-0013

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Purpose – Lean business ideology has been one of the recent dominant research areas in operations management. However, there is a dearth of research focusing on Lean in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap by systematically reviewing the literature in relation to the implementation of Lean in SMEs. Design/methodology/approach – Tranfield et al.’s (2003) systematic review methodology was employed covering three stages: planning, conducting and reporting/dissemination. Findings – A descriptive analysis of the papers reviewed is provided. From the thematic analysis of the literature four main themes are identified: the scope/type of Lean being adopted by SMEs, how Lean is used in SMEs, the impact of Lean implementation on SMEs and the critical success factors for Lean implementation in SMEs. Key inhibitors and enablers related to firm size when implementing Lean are also identified in the concluding discussion. Research limitations/implications – Nine recommendations for future research are developed associated with Lean implementation in SMEs. Practical implications – The authors suggest SMEs to integrate organisational factors such as employee empowerment and the development of a supportive strategy into their Lean implementation plans. A preliminary “Staircase Road Map” to guide SMEs in implementing Lean is also developed. Originality/value – This paper goes beyond previous literature reviews of Lean by systematically and critically evaluating key themes of Lean implementation within an SME environment. It not only provides a road map for SME owners/managers who intend to implement Lean, but also provides the academic community with an agenda for future research.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Uncontrolled Keywords: Literature review, Lean, Small- and medium-sized enterprises
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 1741-038X
Date of Acceptance: 16 July 2015
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:30

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