Title: Digital technologies as lean augmentation: a preliminary study of Japanese automotive manufacturers

Authors: Takefumi Mokudai; Martin Schröder; Marvin Müller; Carsten Schaede; Hajo Holst; Robert Sinopoli; Ulrich Jürgens; Gary Herrigel; Katsuki Aoki

Addresses: Faculty of Economics, Kyushu University, 744 Motooka Nishi-ku Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan ' Faculty of Engineering, Kyushu University, 744 Motooka Nishi-ku Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan ' Institute of Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools, Technical University of Darmstadt, Otto-Berndt-Straße 2, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany ' Institute of Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools, Technical University of Darmstadt, Otto-Berndt-Straße 2, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany ' Institute of Social Sciences, University of Osnabrück, Seminarstraße 33, 49074 Osnabrück, Germany ' Department of Economic Sociology, University of Osnabrück, Seminarstraße 33, 49074 Osnabrück, Germany ' Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB), Reichpietschufer 50, D-10785 Berlin, Germany ' Department of Political Science, University of Chicago, 5828 S. University Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA ' School of Business Administration, Meiji University, 1-1 Kanda-Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-8301, Japan

Abstract: This paper explores how Japanese automotive manufacturers, whose production systems are characterised by the lean principle, address digital transformation. We conducted case studies of seven Japanese car makers and suppliers to investigate the interplay between lean production and digitalisation. We found that the firms selectively adopted digital technologies to enhance the existing lean production system. We labelled this type of digitalisation 'lean augmentation'. Further, we developed theoretical hypotheses regarding the potential of digitalisation to limit kaizen, the roles of human involvement and organisational coordination in digitalised manufacturing, and the potential risk of lean augmentation being caught by what we term the 'lean trap'.

Keywords: lean production; digital technologies; digitalisation; industry 4.0; operations; kaizen; human resource development; lean augmentation; lean trap; multiple-case method; Japanese automotive industry.

DOI: 10.1504/IJATM.2021.116607

International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, 2021 Vol.21 No.3, pp.228 - 249

Received: 15 Sep 2020
Accepted: 16 Dec 2020

Published online: 09 Jul 2021 *

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