Sustainable Improvement Processes for 21st Century Manufacturing Enterprises

Batley, Alun (2006). Sustainable Improvement Processes for 21st Century Manufacturing Enterprises. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research describes how a practical tool or model, that supports sustainable performance improvement in manufacturing organisations, was successfully developed. As there is no improvement without change then this research is also about change - organisational change. The justification for the research is based on the concept that many improvement initiatives fail to deliver the benefits that are claimed for them. Research undertaken in the automotive industry in Wales indicated that the organisations surveyed attempted an average of thirteen initiatives each. This surprising figure, added substance to the need for this research, to clarify the reasons for undertaking improvement initiatives and the necessity for a clear mechanism for the introduction, implementation and sustainability of the improvement process.

The literature indicated a number of essential factors that affect the success or failure of a change programme or the introduction of a new initiative. These factors were confirmed through six case studies based in three different organisations.

The research was primarily concerned with the process used to successfully introduce and sustain performance improvement and the challenge was to develop a practical tool that works rather than just be a search for knowledge. The information from the case studies and the literature reviews provided detailed information that enabled the model to be developed. Subsequently, the model was developed, and its functionality tested, using a company in south east Wales and through three field experiments in three separate organisations. A unique element of the model was the development of an Initiative Measurement Process (IMP) that can be used to evaluate the likely success of an improvement programme based on a number of factors being in place. Further work has been identified including refining the IMP and its scoring system, ongoing testing of the accuracy and validity of the culture questionnaire and using the model over a longer period in a manufacturing company possibly using internal facilitators.

This research adds to knowledge in that a practical tool that supports the implementation and sustainability of performance improvement initiatives through the consideration of a number of factors that will also significantly increase the likelihood of success has been developed and thoroughly tested.

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