Operational initiatives in the food industry
This research attempts to investigate the use & applicability of lean thinking
concepts in the food industry & to develop a strategy for the productive adoption of
lean thinking in the food industry. In . order to investigate the application of lean
manufacturing concepts in the food industry, a lean manufacturing framework
comprising of lean goals, lean principles and lean practices, has been developed
through a systematic review of the literature.
Considering that the food industry is not one industry but a collection of several
types of industry producing a diverse range of products and employing a varied
range of processes, a food industry classification system is proposed on the basis of
visits to various food plants and the available literature.
To investigate specific issues pertaining to the adoption of lean concepts in the food
industry, a multiple case study research strategy approach is selected for the research
investigation. This research investigation includes fifteen case studies. Except for
one case study of a vehicle plant the rest of the case studies relate to food
manufacturing plants. The case study of a vehicle assembly plant was selected in
order to undertake a comparison with the food industry. The fourteen food
manufacturing plants and the one vehicle assembly plant have been studied through a
visit tour together with interviews, documentation and a questionnaire. Each case
study has been described with regard to product, market, raw materials and process
aspects of a plant. Subsequently the case studies have been assessed in order to
understand the degree of leanness by examining the status of lean practices.
All the cases pertaining to the food industry were mapped on the food industry
classification scheme to identify specific food industry types of each of the food
plants. It is observed that the lean model widely adopted in a discrete manufacturing
environment, particularly automotive, is not applicable as such in the food sector.
Therefore, a lean approach consisting of lean principles, lean practices and lean
vision has been suggested for continuous, batch and assembly type of the food
industry which would enable food industry to stay competitive.The major contributions of this research are, the development of a lean
manufacturing framework consisting of goals, principles and practices which can be
used to assess the leanness of any manufacturing plant, the development of a food
industry classification system which would help researchers and managers to better
understand the specificity of the production systems, an investigation of issues
pertaining to the use and applicability of lean manufacturing in the food industry to
help the food industry take advantage of operational improvement initiatives to stay
competitive in today's global market, the development of a lean approach
comprising of lean principles, lean practices and lean vision for the food industry
which would enable the managers to transform their plants into lean plants.