Impact of lean production initiatives on quality: Theoretical analysis and empirical research
Lean production is a well know managerial framework for optimization of organizational processes through waste elimination and cost reduction. Though many researchers pointed to the similarities between lean production and total quality management they do not usually proceed to conclusions about the possible impact of lean production practices on quality issues. The article undertakes the comparative theoretical analysis of lean production and TQM on two levels – on the level of general theoretical principles and on the level of the practical tools and techniques. The authors conclude that lean production practices not only can but should lead to the improvement of the quality of processes and products. The empirical analysis of the results of lean production improvement initiatives in 74 Russian companies leads to the same conclusion. The survey of the participants of lean production introduction projects in Russian companies shows that the number of the defects detected and corrected on the later stages of the value streams in these companies decreased. Hence, lean production can be considered as a set of tools not only for cost reduction but also for quality enhancement.