Open Access Article

Title: Lean practices and the adoption of digital technologies in production

Authors: Robin Von Haartman; Lars Bengtsson; Camilla Niss

Addresses: Department of Industrial Management, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, University of Gävle, 80176 Gävle, Sweden ' Department of Industrial Management, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, University of Gävle, 80176 Gävle, Sweden ' Department of Industrial Management, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, University of Gävle, 80176 Gävle, Sweden

Abstract: The use of Lean principles has long enabled the improvement of efficiency and competitiveness in manufacturing firms, but during the last decade, advanced digital and automated solutions have been more in the spotlight. It has been suggested by some authors that Lean and digitalisation are mutually exclusive, although most authors now agree that the two are indeed compatible. It thus seems that the most urgent question is not whether Lean and digital technologies can be combined, but rather how. This paper uses a large-scale survey of manufacturing units in Europe to explore the relationship between three types of Lean production practices and the use of digital technologies in production. The analysis shows that three types of Lean practices - Lean flow, Lean work organisation and Lean human resource management - are strongly associated with firms' adoption of digital technologies in production by manufacturing firms. Based on the results it is suggested that, as a theoretical explanation, a firm's experience of Lean may act as an absorptive capacity when adopting digital technologies. A number of practical explanations are also provided, e.g., that systematic improvement efforts are also beneficial when implementing digital technologies.

Keywords: digitalisation; Lean practices; manufacturing strategy; absorptive capacity; Industry 4.0.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSOM.2021.118260

International Journal of Services and Operations Management, 2021 Vol.40 No.2, pp.286 - 304

Accepted: 01 Nov 2019
Published online: 15 Oct 2021 *