Continuous Improvement Beyond the Lean Understanding
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionProcedia CIRP. 2013, 7 575-579. 10.1016/j.procir.2013.06.035
Continuous Improvement is seen as a cornerstone in Lean Thinking, but the improvement process of operations has been done long before Lean entered companies’ agenda. This paper will draw the historical line of continuous improvement in one of Norway's most important automotive industry clusters, where continuous improvement has been an issue over decades. A survey of over 600 respondents shows that continuous improvement is felt like a natural part of the tasks in the daily work-life. But there are differences of what is so natural according to what role a person has in the companies. Similar there are differences between companies in what continuous improvement actually is done when the companies are in the same industry. These results show that the simplified notion of continuous improvement is far from simple and has a cultural foundation in which the Lean tradition speaks little about. Workers union involvement is crucial for success of improvements at the factory floor. This argument will have the Nordic work-life model as a back-drop and help to explain how to deal with cultural foundation in highly automated production lines.