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.