Investigating the readiness of people in manufacturing SMEs to embark on Lean Six Sigma projects: An empirical study in the German manufacturing sector

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Shokri, Alireza ; Waring, Teresa ; Nabhani, Farhad (2016)

Purpose – The research conducted within this article focuses on three fundamental human related behaviour factors associated with Lean Six Sigma (LSS) projects in German manufacturing Small and Medium Sized- Enterprises (SMEs) on the readiness of people (managers and their staff) to commence LSS projects. These are core personal competence, strategic vision of the people and the organisational culture of the specific organisation.\ud \ud Design/methodology/approach – Based on a thorough review of the academic literature a set of hypotheses were constructed to examine the level of association between people’s competence, vision and culture with LSS readiness within SMEs. This was done using correlation and regression analysis. Data collection was carried out in seven different German manufacturing SMEs involved in aerospace supply and agro-food manufacturing using a survey instrument . \ud \ud Finding – It was found that there is a strong positive association between the core competence of people and organisational culture with readiness for commencing LSS in the manufacturing SMEs studied. The core values of people, education level and the vision of making continuous quality improvement were identified as key variables in promoting LSS readiness in these manufacturing SMEs. This study indicates that these ‘softer’ variables can be essential to successful LSS implementation and need to be explored further before undertaking the process.\ud \ud Practical Implications – From the perspective of the implementers of LSS the results of this research could be of interest to different manufacturing SMEs intending to embark upon an LSS journey as it highlights the significance of human-related behavioural factors in the process. SME organisations may consider carrying out development or training with their managers and employees around personal and organisational values, addressing core competence and strengthening organisational culture in order to facilitate LSS readiness and enhance the prospect of its success.\ud \ud Originality/Value- It would appear that this LSS research has not been carried out within the German manufacturing SME context before and although discrete in nature has surfaced the ‘softer’ variables of core competence of staff and organisational culture as important readiness issues to address when undertaking LSS. This integrated approach of human behavioural factors, organisational culture, LSS and manufacturing SMEs demonstrates the originality of our research.
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