The Toyota Way. A Systematic Literature Review On How Companies In The European Food And Beverage Industry Have Applied The Toyota Production System

Master's Thesis, 2017

96 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

List of Acronyms


Intellectual property statement

The Author

1. Introduction

2. Literature review
2.1. Operations management definition and paradigms
2.2. The Toyota Production System
2.2.1. Lean management’s origins in the Toyota Production System
2.2.2. 14 Lean management principles
2.2.3. The interconnectedness of lean practices
2.2.4. The diffusion of lean production Discrete industries Continuous industries
2.3. Operations management in the food & beverage industry
2.3.1. History of operations management in the F&B industry
2.3.2. Current state of OM in the European F&B industry
2.4. Research gap

3. Methodology
3.1. Research objectives, philosophy and approach
3.2. Introduction to systematic literature review methodology
3.3. Research framework
3.3.1. Planning the review
3.3.2. Literature preparation
3.3.3. Review execution and reporting & dissemination

4. Descriptive results
4.1. Generic study features
4.2. Dominant authors
4.3. Chronological distribution of papers
4.4. Classification of studies by industry sector

5. Findings and discussion
5.1. Drivers for lean implementation
5.2. Obstacles for lean implementation
5.2.1. F&B industry related obstacles
5.2.2. Organisational obstacles
5.2.3. Comparison of European F&B and automotive industry
5.3. Critical success factors for lean implementation
5.4. Lean practices used in the European F&B industry
5.5. Adaptions to lean methodology
5.6. Outcomes of lean implementation

6. Limitations & suggestions for further research

7. Conclusion

Reference list


Appendix A – Systematic Literature Review Protocol

Appendix B – Definitions of lean practices

Appendix C – List of studies included in the SLR

FINAL WORD COUNT: 17,192 (Main text + footnotes)

List of Tables

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List of Figures

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List of Acronyms

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The thesis at hand describes the findings of a systematic literature review that was undertaken to investigate if and how the Toyota Production System is being used in the European food and beverage industry. The research was conducted since the concerned industry is suffering from low productivity, increasing customer requirements and frequently occurring quality issues, although food safety is of utmost importance. The Toyota Production System was found capable to address all these issues both in its incumbent automotive sector and subsequently also in other industries.

After identifying the dominant authors in the body of literature and classifying the extant literature into epochs, the research objectives for the study are addressed. These included an investigation of the drivers for lean implementation, the obstructing and facilitating factors, the performance outcomes of lean implementation and the lean practices that are predominantly described. With regards to the latter, also adaptions that were made to the lean methodology are presented.

The most important findings include that lean methodology is already being used in the European food and beverage industry, even though only to a rather limited extent. Moreover, industry characteristics are found to present obstacles to lean implementation. Especially volatile demand patterns that are contrasted by production to forecast make it difficult to avoid overproduction. Also, natural variation and perishability of materials can make the adoption of lean principles challenging. However, although the body of literature does not provide a solution for all obstacles, some presented adaptions to the lean methodology can address at least some of them.

In the end, the concluding assessment is made that the Toyota Production System can be seen as applicable to the European food and beverage industry. However, industry characteristics make it at times necessary to adapt the lean methodology creatively.

Intellectual property statement

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The Author

The author of this dissertation is a student on the MSc Operations, Project and Supply Chain Management programme. His/her previous experience relevant to the study consists both of practical as well as theoretical aspects. The practical experience is in the form of a six-month internship in the supply chain management of a large food manufacturing company. In addition to this, theoretical knowledge of TPS and Lean methodology of the author was gained in basic form during bachelor studies, but mainly through participation in the above mentioned MSc programme.

1. Introduction

The European food and beverage (F&B) industry is unique in many ways. Relevant data on the EU-based companies illustrate the scale. With a turnover of approximately €1.1 trillion, the F&B industry is the biggest manufacturing sector in the EU (FoodDrinkEurope, 2016). This represents some 15.6% of the overall EU manufacturing industry, more than the second ranked automotive industry with 12.4%. At the same time, the F&B industry is also the biggest sector in terms of employment with about 4.25m employees.

Another factor that characterises the European F&B industry is the importance of small and medium sized enterprises1 (SMEs) within it. More than 99% of all enterprises are SMEs and account for some 2/3 of the employment in the industry. About 50% of total turnover is being made within SMEs (FoodDrinkEurope, 2016). On the other extreme, the ten biggest companies together account for almost 16% of the total market, which contrasts the importance of SMEs.

Yet, the European F&B industry is suffering from low productivity, increasing customer requirements and frequently occurring food scandals (Rieger, et al., 2016). In addition to this, it is also bearing a moral burden in light of massive food waste occurring in food supply chains (Gustavsson, et al., 2011), which is in glaring contrast to a rapidly growing world population. For this reason, the European Commission set out a target to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2050 (Amani, et al., 2015). Hence, these issues require advanced operations management to improve productivity, decrease waste and increase value.

The Toyota Production System laid the foundation for a new operations management paradigm that can possibly address these issues all at once. This paradigm became known as lean production and its use spread out into many different industries after it was brought to live in the automotive industry.

Therefore, this thesis presents the findings of a systematic literature review that was undertaken to investigate the applicability of lean production to the European F&B industry. This methodology was chosen as it allows incorporating secondary data with a large scope, which is necessary to be able to make informed statements about an entire industry.

This dissertation comprises seven chapters, including this introduction chapter. In the second chapter, necessary background information is given on operations management theory, the Toyota Production System and the European F&B industry, followed by a justification and detailed description of the research methodology. Before going into detailed synthesis, the papers included into the review are presented descriptively in chapter four. Then in chapter five, the thesis presents reasons why F&B organisations have implemented lean production and what helped and hindered them in doing so. Moreover, it is investigated what practices of the lean methodology are being used and whether these had to be adapted to the F&B industry context. Afterwards, the study discusses the effects of lean implementation on the performance of European F&B companies. Finally, limitations and suggestions for further research are outlined in chapter six and a conclusion drawn in the final chapter whether or not the Toyota Production System can be seen as applicable to the European F&B industry.

2. Literature review

In order to better understand the findings and discussion presented in the later chapters of this paper, necessary background information shall be provided here. First, an introduction to operations management (OM) will be given, followed by a more detailed overview of the Toyota Production System. Thereafter, both the history of OM in the F&B industry as well as current developments and issues will be discussed. The last section of this chapter will then outline the research gap to be filled by this study.

2.1. Operations management definition and paradigms

“Operations management is the activity of managing the resources that create and deliver services and products.” (Slack, et al., 2013, p. 6)

The above quote gives an idea about how far-reaching the area of operations management is. In fact, all goods and services produced in an economy are the result of some form of OM. This is because OM is concerned with organising the transformation process that turns inputs into outputs (Slack, et al., 2013). Inputs, in this regard, are the above mentioned resources and can be present in many forms including machinery, raw materials, human labour and information technology (Brown, et al., 2013). The role of OM is to arrange these in a way that supports predefined operations performance objectives when providing outputs to customers in the form of goods or services. Slack, et al. (2013) describe the five objectives of cost, dependability, flexibility, quality and speed. While all objectives should be pursued, it is the hierarchy of their individual importance for a specific organisation that sets the guidelines for the OM function.

Before the industrial revolution, the predominant OM paradigm was craft production (Khanna, 2015). This was characterised by a heavy reliance on comprehensive artisan skills of workers and small scale output that could easily be individualised (Shambu & Meyer, 2008). Later, Fredrick W. Taylor introduced the concept of scientific management, which helped Henry Ford to establish the new OM paradigm of mass production in the beginning of the 20th century (Brown, et al., 2001). Unlike its predecessor, this was based on highly specialised tasks and machinery, standardisation and strong cost focus mainly pursued through economies of scale (Duguay, et al., 1997).

Since the first production of Ford’s Model T, the most often mentioned early application of the mass production paradigm (Khanna, 2015), much advancement in OM practices have been made in the 20th century (Bayraktar, et al., 2007). Eventually, as markets in developed economies matured, the previously highly celebrated mass production paradigm slowly became insufficient to satisfy the growing demands of customers. This concerned especially their desire for higher quality products and greater customisation (Womack, et al., 1990). A new OM paradigm, which had its roots in Japan and was later labelled ‘lean manufacturing’, started to gain importance as it could address these growing demands as well as bring about further advantages. This new production system will now be discussed in more detail in the following section.

2.2. The Toyota Production System

2.2.1. Lean management’s origins in the Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS), also known as lean management, lean manufacturing or lean production, was brought to life by the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota Motor Corporation (Womack, et al., 1990; Monden, 2011; Parkes, 2015). In the years following Second World War, the Japanese economy was severely debilitated with much of the infrastructure destroyed. Demand was only a small share of what it has been in the pre-war time (Fujimoto, 1999). It was on the background of these settings that the chief engineer and plant manager at Toyota, named Taiichi Ohno, had to figure out a way how to produce more with less (Ohno, 1988). This is because capital-intensive investments were not possible and the small firm Toyota was far behind the productivity levels of the at that time industry leading US-American Ford Motor Company (Liker, 2004). The solution found by Ohno and his team of engineers was a focus on the reduction of waste, i.e. activities that do not add value from the customers’ point of view (Earley, 2016). Seven types of waste were identified (Ohno, 1988): Transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, over-production and defects.

This core principle of waste reduction was combined with an unforgiving commitment to quality and the establishment of a culture that continuously challenged established procedures to find an even better solution (Clark, et al., 2013).

It was this new manufacturing paradigm that then later in the nineteen-seventies and eighties helped Toyota conquer large market shares in the North American car markets (Holweg, 2007). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) undertook a research project to investigate how Toyota could compete so successfully against the domestic North American automakers. The findings of this were illustrated in the book “The Machine That Changed the World” by Womack et al. (1990). In this very book the term ‘lean production’ got established for describing the Western interpretation of the Toyota Production System. For the purpose of this study, however, these two terminologies will be used interchangeably as synonyms.

2.2.2. 14 Lean management principles

In his book “The Toyota Way”, Jeffrey K. Liker (2004) summarises TPS in 14 management principles. These are grouped into the four sections of philosophy, process, people & partners and problem solving, which he calls the “4 Ps” of The Toyota Way (Liker, 2004, p. 6). These principles are summarised below:

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Table 2.1: 14 Lean management principles (Own table based on Liker, 2004, pp. 37-41)

This interpretation of TPS is widely acknowledged in the literature (Bhasin & Burcher, 2006; Pettersen, 2009; Womack & Jones, 2015). However, there is a different interpretation and segmentation done by the Toyota Motor Corporation itself. In their internal document “Corporate philosophy – Toyota Way 2001” (Toyota Motor Corporation, 2001), the company outlines the guiding principles of the company to all of its employees. These are articulated in five core values that are based around the two pillars of continuous improvement and respect for people (Toyota Europe, 2017). Continuous improvement is connected with Genchi Genbutsu, Kaizen and Challenge, while respect for people builds on teamwork and respect. Toyota Europe illustrates this using the image of a road:

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Figure 2.1: Toyota’s understanding of TPS (Toyota Europe, 2017)

In awareness of this difference, Liker (2004) also included an illustration bringing together his work of the “4 Ps” and Toyota’s internal definition. In this, it is being shown where the five core values defined by Toyota can be found in the model developed by Liker.

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Figure 2.2: Liker’s “4 Ps” and Toyota’s five core values brought together (Reprinted from Liker, 2004, p. 6)

2.2.3. The interconnectedness of lean practices

Since some of the above presented principles are rather abstract, it is necessary to also consider different aspects of the lean methodology to identify the level of lean implementation in an organisation. Often the easiest way to assess if a company is using lean, whether successfully or not, is to see if lean practices are being used to control and manage the operations (Doolen & Hacker, 2005). Therefore, in this section it shall be presented how different lean practices work in connection with each other.

Within the lean methodology there is a multitude of practices (Feld, 2000). However, the application of individual tools outside a comprehensive lean methodology and organisational culture is unlikely to bring the anticipated benefits to a business (Voehl, et al., 2014). Therefore, the TPS House is an often used diagram to show the reliance of lean on multiple aspects rather than an isolated use of individual practices (Liker, 2004). This can be seen in figure 2.3. Herein, different facets of TPS are displayed as parts of a house. These include the foundation (e.g. the long-term philosophy), two pillars (Just-In-Time and Jidoka) and the roof (the desired outcomes of lean implementation). The idea behind this is that the house can only maintain the desired outcomes in the roof if all layers of the foundation and both pillars are intact, i.e. if the corresponding lean principles are being adhered to.

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Figure 2.3: The TPS House (Liker, 2004, p. 33)

This interdependence can be exemplified by the foundation layer of stable and standardised processes. It becomes especially clear when assuming that such standardisation would not be in place. If tasks are not stable and standardised, then Just-In-Time (JIT) scheduling is likely to fail since different workers would need varying amounts of time to perform a work item (Narusawa & Shook, 2009). Moreover, continuous improvement can only happen if standards are in place that can be adapted to prescribe a new mode of operation. Without standardisation, operators would simply fall back into performing tasks as they have done it before (Niederstadt, 2010).

Likewise important is that both JIT and Jidoka are being used, since they are complimentary to each other. Similar to the above, JIT does not only require that all workers need the same length of time to perform a task, it must also be ensured that the resulting output of the task will be of usable quality (Baudin, 2007). Jidoka is a principle aiming to ensure that every work station produces good quality items every single time, hence making the workers performing the task responsible for quality (Liker, 2004). At the same time, JIT supports Jidoka by guaranteeing a continuous flow of production in which quality issues stand out immediately and can therefore be addressed (Monden, 2011).

When talking about lean, another methodology worth mentioning is six sigma. This is because it is often combined with lean to form a so-called Lean Six Sigma (LSS) approach (Drohomeretski, et al., 2014). Six sigma aims at creating stable processes by reducing variation as far as possible. The statistical goal is to achieve a process that produces only 3.4 defects over one million outputs (Truscott, 2003). Dora et al. (2013a) describe lean as a horizontal approach that makes improvements over the flow of activities. By contrast, six sigma is a vertical approach aiming at improvements in individual processes or organisations. Hence, they draw the conclusion that “the combination of Lean and Six Sigma techniques addresses problems both horizontally and vertically” (Dora, et al., 2013a, p. 610).

2.2.4. The diffusion of lean production

Many reputable authors in the lean literature, such as Womack, et al., (1990), Liker (2004) and Monden (2011), advocate a general applicability of the lean methodology to any organisation or industry. However, this view is not undisputed. For example, Hines, et al., (2004, p. 1006) state that “when applied to sectors outside the high-volume repetitive manufacturing environment, lean production has reached its limitations”. Nonetheless, it is evident that lean is already being used to a considerable scale in industries other than car manufacturing. In this context, a difference needs to be made between how it is being used in discrete (i.e. producing countable pieces) and continuous industries (i.e. producing in measures such as tons or hectolitres) (Hild, et al., 2001). This is because continuous industries have some distinctly different characteristics than discrete industries, in which TPS evolved, that influence the applicability of lean management (Mahapatra & Mohanty, 2007; Abdulmalek & Rajgopal, 2007). Discrete industries

The first companies following Toyota on the lean journey were still from the automotive sector; in fact the very first ones were Toyota’s key suppliers. After the first oil crises in 1973, which hit the Japanese economy severely, the government recognised Toyota’s fast recovery and started to promote other business in Japan to adopt lean (Liker, 2004). However, the success of this was rather limited, as the concept of TPS was not yet fully understood. After Toyota had set off to conquer the US car market, it was US automobile manufacturers that first started imitating TPS outside of Japan. Indeed, it was Toyota itself that started teaching their production system to the US auto-maker General Motors (GM), by agreeing on a Joint-Venture that turned around the worst-performing GM plant into the GM plant with the highest quality (Holweg, 2007; Gomes-Casseres, 2009).

This was followed by the US aerospace industry, which is a discrete industry rather comparably in its processes to the automotive one (Crute, et al., 2003). The findings of a study by Mathaisel & Comm (2000), that investigated the applicability of lean to this industry, were transferred to other manufacturing industries and supported the claim of general applicability of lean made by Womack, et al., (1990); at least for the discrete industries.

While by 1990 companies outside the automotive sector also became aware of lean management, it was really in the 1990s that the concept started to spread into other industries. Especially high volume discrete manufacturing businesses pioneered using the concept (Hines, et al., 2004). The driving forces behind this spreading of lean were rather similar to what made TPS so desirable in the automotive industry. This included an increasing importance of quality, rising global competitions that created cost pressure, the willingness to implement a continuous improvement scheme and customer demand for personalised products (Crute, et al., 2003; Norani, et al., 2010; Salonitis & Tsinopoulos, 2016). Continuous industries

As mentioned above, continuous industries produce quantities measured in units other than countable items. Typical examples include pharmaceuticals (Subramanian, 2015), chemicals (Cooke & Rohleder, 2006) and steel production (Yin, 2011). With regard to the focus of this research, large parts of the F&B industry also fall under this definition (Clark, 2009). Examples for this are dough-based bakery processes or the production of beverages.

In general, companies in continuous process industries have applied the lean concept later and in a smaller scale than the ones from discrete industries (Abdulmalek, et al., 2006). It is believed that this is due to the characteristics that distinguish continuous industries from discrete ones, such as: A frequent reliance on large, expensive and inflexible equipment, a smaller number of workstations and often no possibility to store more than a technically required amount of work in progress (WIP) between those workstations (Mahapatra & Mohanty, 2007). These characteristics can present obstacles to the application of lean methodology (Pool, et al., 2011). For instance, if companies rely on capital-intensive machinery, the benefit of a learning workforce, as fostered by lean, might not weigh as heavily as they do in discrete industries (Cooke & Rohleder, 2006).

Despite these cumbersome industry characteristics, there are nonetheless companies that have used it successfully. Abdulmalek, et al., (2006) mention that many continuous industries at some point also produce countable units. Taken the example of bakery processes from above, the processing of dough would be continuous, but once this is segmented e.g. into loaves of bread, it becomes discrete units. At minimum, lean methodology would be applicable downstream of this point (Pool, et al., 2011). Another suggestion is that lean implementation in continuous industries should start outside the actual production process. An example for this is the establishment of JIT-deliveries between a plant of Dow Chemicals and a customer firm (Abdulmalek, et al., 2006). For wider application also in the production process itself, the tools developed for discrete industries would at times need to be adapted to fit the specific context of continuous process companies.

In contrast to this view, Melton (2005) argues that the biggest constraints to a more wide-spread use of lean in process industries have less to do with a limited applicability of the methodology, but rather with a lack of knowledge and willingness to change. He attests an increasing use of lean in continuous industries and advocates the claim of general applicability of lean to hold true also in these industry settings.

2.3. Operations management in the food & beverage industry

After introducing the field of OM and the leading paradigms in the first section and the concept of lean production in the second, this section will now present details on operations management in the F&B industry. First, an overview of the history of OM in this industry will be given. Thereafter, current developments and issues will be outlined. These will later be used in the last section of the literature review chapter to explain the research gap this paper aims to fill.

2.3.1. History of operations management in the F&B industry

Food processing can surely be regarded one of the earliest industries in history (Higman, 2012). Some authors even link the development of human societies with progress made in food processing techniques. E.g. Thurmond (2006, p. 4) says that “food processing, in fact, is the impetus for human civilization itself”. Food processing has its origins in the need for preserving food for times of scarce supply. Hence, earliest examples date back tens of thousands of years and mainly concern the drying and fermentation of meat and fruits (Hui, et al., 2004). With the advent of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, processing techniques also advanced (Higman, 2012). However, manual processing remained the almost exclusively used method of operation for many more centuries to come. Hence, in line with the background information provided in chapter 2.1., the history of OM in the F&B industry started under a craft production paradigm.

An early example of mass production of ground flour is provided by the discovery of water-run mills on a hill slope in southern France dating back at least to the 4th century (Higman, 2012). An idealised illustration of how this early mass production looked like is given overleaf in figure 2.4:

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Figure 2.4: Water mills at Barbégal near modern Arles (Higman, 2012, p. 109)

Although it is hard to determine the exact capacity of the site, it has been agreed that all 16 to 32 mills combined could process at least 9 tons and up to 28 tons of grain each day (Paavo, 1986). Even compared to modern mills, this can surely be considered an example of mass production. Yet, such early evidence of the mass production paradigm vanished together with the decline of the Roman Empire at least from the European landscape (Kiple & Ornelas, 2000)

An important step in the development of today’s food and beverage industry was the development of packaging that could prolong the edibility of its contents (Smith & Hui, 2004). Of outstanding importance in this regard was the technique of canning, which was first used in the late 18th century at the beginning of industrialisation (Higman, 2012). This new long-life food made the centralisation of food production possible, so that food could be produced in large quantities in locations remote from the point of consumption. Thus, organisations in the F&B industry started using characteristics of the mass production paradigm.

Indeed, although Henry Ford is considered the inventor of the modern mass production, he borrowed ideas for this from the food industry. The best example for this is that Ford’s infamous moving assembly line was actually the reversed application of a carcass disassembly line, which he had seen in a Chicago slaughterhouse in 1913 (The Henry Ford, 2017).

Following these developments, the breakthrough of freezing and chilling in the early to midst 20th century (Higman, 2012) and later vacuum and CO2-injected packaging (Mendes & Goncales, 2008) further increased the possibilities of offering goods to customers. This way, the highly diversified F&B industry as we know it today was created.

2.3.2. Current state of OM in the European F&B industry

Slack, et al. (2013) define five process types for manufacturing operations (see figure 2.5). Two product characteristics (volume and variety) and two process characteristics (tasks and flow) determine the most appropriate process type.

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Figure 2.5: Different manufacturing process types (Slack, et al., 2013, p. 102)

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Table 2.2: Manufacturing process types examples in the F&B industry (Own table)

However, the importance of these different process types in the F&B industry is neither equal nor stable. In at least the last decade, the industry is experiencing a trend towards demand for lower quantities, a greater variety of products and shorter delivery lead times (Fiddy, 2008). This makes companies move towards smaller batch sizes; hence the importance of batch processes is increasing. Moreover, the shorter delivery lead times started a trend of re-localisation of food production (Horst & Gaolach, 2014; Benedek & Balázs, 2016), after food products had become commodities on global markets for many years (Wilhelmina, et al., 2010; Rundgren, 2016). Even traditional low cost and high volume products, such as the above mentioned non-branded supermarket products, are expected to be delivered with greater flexibility, while at the same time quality requirements of retailers and customers are rising (Burch & Lawrence, 2005).

With regard to this issue of quality, food safety is of outstanding importance in the F&B industry. Predominantly, this is trying to be achieved through quality assurance (QA) techniques, especially through certification such as ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) (Trienekens & Zuurbier, 2008; Manning, 2013). However, even though these certifications have contributed to making food safer for consumers, they are also not without their short-comings. For instance, Trienekens & Zuurbier (2008) mention that raising certification requirements make it harder or almost impossible for companies in developing countries to offer their goods to the European market. Moreover, QA does not encourage producers to further improve the quality of their products and processes once they meet the required level for a specific certification.

In addition to these developments, the European F&B industry is suffering from a lower productivity than its most important trading partners in the USA, Australia, Brazil and Canada (ECSIP consortium, 2016). Despite its enormous size (see chapter 1), the European F&B industry only makes marginal R&D investments of €2.5bn (i.e. 0.23% of turnover). This contributes to the relatively low labour productivity2 compared to other industries. E.g. employees in the automotive industry are about 50% more productive than their F&B counterparts. Workers in the chemical industry are even twice as productive as the ones in the F&B industry.

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Figure 2.6: Labour productivity in selected European industries (Reprinted from Food Drink Europe, 2016, p. 4)

2.4. Research gap

The current developments and issues in the European F&B industry described above create a pressure to change the OM conduct, which is currently still dominated by the mass production paradigm. The comparatively low productivity, both on a global scale with direct competitors as well as with respect to other European industries, highlights this. However, since further increasing output volume is unlikely for a saturated food market, the F&B industry should rather investigate how it can add more value to its products. In this context, also the outstanding importance of quality should be addressed, especially in light of frequently occurring food scandals (Rieger, et al., 2016).

These drivers for change are similar to what has backed the development of lean production and its subsequent diffusion. Lean is known to have increased both productivity and quality in its incumbent automotive industry as well as other manufacturing industries (Al-Tahat & Jalham, 2015). Therefore, an investigation if introducing the lean paradigm can address the above described issues in the European F&B industry is worthwhile; even more so, taking into account the crucial role the F&B industry takes in the European economy.

Moreover, lean methodology could help to reduce food waste occurring in the supply side of the market. Hence, lean can possibly contribute to feeding the growing world population if it is found to be applicable to the F&B industry.

Although much has been published in terms of case, survey-based and other studies, no holistic assessment how TPS has been applied to the F&B industry has been undertaken; at least not on a European scope. This is in spite of all the above mentioned points in favour of such an investigation. Therefore, this study will aim to fill this research gap. This will be done by means of a systematic review of the extant academic and practitioner literature, since this research methodology is appropriate for considering a broad scope (Saunders, et al., 2012).

The findings will be interesting both for academics and practitioners likewise. From an academic point of view, the findings of the study will contribute to the discussion around the claim of general applicability of lean to any industry or organisation. For practitioners, the findings on how TPS is being used within the European F&B industry can provide guidance when implementing lean.

3. Methodology

In this chapter, the methodology for the thesis at hand will be outlined. First, the research objectives, the underlying philosophy and the research approach will be clarified. Subsequently, the method of systematic literature review (SLR) will be introduced, together with a brief discussion of its benefits and shortcomings. In the last section, the research framework used for the study will be presented and its application explained in detail.

3.1. Research objectives, philosophy and approach

As aforementioned, the above outlined research gap shall be addressed by conducting an SLR. The research objectives for this undertaking are fourfold:

1. Determine the main drivers for lean implementation and the accompanying obstructing and facilitating factors in the European F&B industry
2. Identify which lean production practices are predominantly described in the body of literature, their level of implementation as well as any adaptions made
3. Investigate the impact of lean implementation on the performance of firms in the European F&B industry
4. Through all of the above, assess whether the claim of general applicability of TPS to any industry can be sustained for the F&B industry

In terms of philosophic assumptions, this paper adopts a positivistic stance (Saunders, et al., 2012). That means it assumes the world exists externally (i.e. objectivism) and that the aim of the study is to collect hard, observable facts. Hence, the methodology described in the later sections of this chapter is focused on replicability, which is another often mentioned characteristic of positivistic research (Gill & Johnson, 2010). However, as mentioned by Saunders, et al. (2012), it is not always the case that a research follows only one philosophy. Therefore, positivism presents the dominant philosophy for this paper, but is not necessarily the only one.

Further, as can be seen from the research objectives, the research approach contains both deductive as well as inductive aspects (Saunders, et al., 2012). For instance, verifying the claim of general applicability of TPS to any industry represents deduction. By contrast, the first objective is inductive as it would result in new theory about why companies in the European F&B industry have chosen to implement TPS and what has either helped or hindered them from doing so.

In accordance with the positivism described above, the majority of data was analysed in a quantitative manner (Saunders, et al., 2012). For example, quantitative assessment was used to identify which lean practices have been described most frequently. However, the research also contained qualitative aspects such as exploring the possible adaptions of lean practices in the context of the European F&B industry.

3.2. Introduction to systematic literature review methodology

Although the methodology of systematic review originates from medical science (Mulrow & Cook, 1998), it is increasingly used in social sciences including operations management (OM) (Metthews & Marzec, 2012; Tavares Thomé, et al., 2016). Here, it should be pointed out that an SLR represents scientific research itself and is not a mere listing or summary of existing studies. Thereunto, SLRs differ from traditional narrative literature reviews by bringing a high level of rigour into examining the existing body of knowledge (Cronin, et al., 2008). This is done by using a scientific and transparent review process to minimise bias and create replicable findings (Cook, et al., 1997). An SLR should always aim to incorporate all existing studies in an academic area that are relevant to answering a specific research question or problem (ten Ham-Baloyi & Jordan, 2016).

Nowadays, SLRs play an important role in social sciences, since they offer a range of benefits (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009). For instance, they provide an opportunity to synthesise the findings of multiple studies to establish what might be singular observations and what is consensus in academia and practice. Another benefit of systematic literature reviews is their ability to identify where further research is needed and where sufficient research has been undertaken already for the time being (Jesson, et al., 2011). Finally, from a practical point of view, it can be said that SLRs offer their readers time savings, as they collate the existing evidence and knowledge in an area of study (Petticrew, 2001).

However, the method of systematic review in social sciences is not without its criticism. For example, Denyer and Tranfield (2009) mention that social sciences at times make different philosophical assumptions compared to medical sciences. This can lead to inconsistencies when the SLR models developed for medical sciences are used unaltered. Therefore, they advocate the use of frameworks which are more bespoke to social sciences. Furthermore, the quality of the review will depend on the researcher having at least a working knowledge of the field of study as well as access to sources of published and unpublished literature (Jesson, et al., 2011). As a last point, through the rigid planning and conduct of SLRs, these might well gain in credibility through reduced bias and increased replicability. Yet, these benefits are purchased with the price of a very inflexible research methodology, which hardly allows for creative adaptions in later stages.


1 The European Commission defines an SME as a company with less than 250 employees and an annual turnover below €50m (European Commission, 2003)

2 The OECD Statistics Directorate (2008) defines labour productivity as the ratio between gross value added and the total number of hours worked to achieve this. In the example at hand, this is translated into value added per worker per year.

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The Toyota Way. A Systematic Literature Review On How Companies In The European Food And Beverage Industry Have Applied The Toyota Production System
University of Manchester  (Alliance Manchester Business School)
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Toyoto Production System, food industry, lean management, operations management
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Thomas Hillmann (Author), 2017, The Toyota Way. A Systematic Literature Review On How Companies In The European Food And Beverage Industry Have Applied The Toyota Production System, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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