Information and Communication Technologies and Lean Production: striving for a synergetic integration
Licentiate thesis, 2016
The role and integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in lean production (LP) has been studied for decades. Research has shown that such technology and lean production complement each other and are interdependent in some cases. Continuing with this research, the purposes of this research work are to elaborate on the role and integration of ICT in lean production, and to ensure the success of the ICT tools that will support lean production.
The theoretical findings revealed that ICT has two main roles in lean production systems: to help implement lean production, and to enhance lean principles. One of the lean principles is standardized work. The integration of ICT tools such as Web application prototypes and Quick Response (QR) codes was studied in different scenarios that included a standardized process. The empirical findings showed that Web applications provide ubiquity, which enables access to information everywhere and reaching more workers. With QR codes, it is possible to provide the right information at the right time and at the right place.
Moreover, a theoretical framework is proposed, the ICT-LP integration matrix. This framework aims to help integrate ICT in lean production implementations by identifying different scenarios and their challenges and constraints. The development of this framework is based on a theoretical elaboration and empirical studies. The theoretical elaboration was carried out by the comparison of the integration matrix and a conceptual model found in the literature. Partial empirical results found in this research identified challenges for ICT, such as avoiding affecting the good habits between workers like teamwork and providing the adequate infrastructure.
However, the success of ICT in terms of its design, development and implementation is complex and elusive. In fact, the theoretical findings have shown that ICT has a positive impact in LP implementations, but this does not ensure a successful integration at all. Knowing this, a consolidated framework was developed to assess success. Partial empirical testing of the framework let us evaluate some ICT prototype tools that support standardized work.