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Viability of Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques in the Apparel Industry


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Article · October 2011
DOI: 10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.110-116.4013

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Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols. 110-116 (2012) pp 4013-4022
© (2012) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland
doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.110-116.4013

Viability of Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques in the Apparel


Industry in Sri Lanka
1,2
S.K.P.N. Silva, 2H.S.C. Perera and G.D. Samarasinghe
1
Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering ,Sri Lanka Institute of Information
Technology, Malabe, Sri Lanka
2
University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
1
e-mail: niranga.s@sliit.lk ,2e-mail: niranga.s@sliit.lk, 2e-mail: hscp@mot.mrt.ac.lk,e-mail:
2
dinesh@mot.mrt.ac.lk

Keywords- Lean Manufacturing, Lean tools and techniques, Apparel industry, Viability, Sri Lanka

Abstract— Lean Manufacturing can be considered as a business strategy which was originated and
developed in Japan. It tries to identify waste and eliminate it. Thus it leads to improvement in
productivity and quality and companies can achieve a competitive advantage over others. Sri
Lankan industries, especially apparel sector have attempted to implement this, but a little research
work is carried out in regarding its suitability. This research is an attempt to identify a suitable Lean
model for the apparel industry in Sri Lanka.
As the initial stage of this study, a literature review is carried out to study about the Lean
Manufacturing. It starts by looking at how Lean Manufacturing first began. Then it seeks to identify
the core principles, tools and techniques and how those tools and techniques are currently being
used worldwide. After studying the global scenario the next step is to look at the Sri Lankan context
using real world data. This was undertaken by means of structured surveys, observations, and on
site interviews. Also the study will reveal period of Lean implementation, suitable implementation
methods, order of implementation, tools which are avoided, sustainability of different tools,
challenges faced, ways of overcoming challenges and benefits achieved after applying Lean
Manufacturing concepts in the apparel sector of Sri Lanka.
The findings state Lean Manufacturing can be applied to mass production apparel industries and
has created a positive mindset on employees. As implementation of Lean concepts is still in
developmental stage, the full benefit is not yet achieved. But current situation suggests that the
industry can go forward with Lean and capitalize on its full potential. In this research the authors
have proposed a model which can be used to implement Lean in a systematic manner and each
manufacturer must develop their own Lean system through training, experiments, employee
empowerment, right leadership and kaizen mindset.
Originality of the research— The research builds up a Lean Model which is not yet developed
for the apparel sector in Sri Lanka. It can be further modified to suit the global apparel industry and
other industries as well.

Introduction
International outlook for the apparel industry has changed considerably after the removal of the
Multi Fiber Agreement in 2005. Apparel manufacturers all over the world are pressed to deliver
high quality garments at low costs in shorter lead times. Most of the apparel manufacturers are
trying to achieve these objectives.
Although it sounds simple, apparel industry has one of the very difficult manufacturing
processes. It is highly labour intensive, skill based industry. Many in the apparel sector still think of
keeping people busy all the time to reduce unit cost as much as possible. This often involves large
batches of work, raw material and finish good inventories. And it leads to overproduction, longer
lead times and poor quality. The industry contains lots of wastes and therefore there is an
opportunity for improvement.

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4014 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

In 2008 almost all the apparel manufactured industries in the world was badly affected by the
global recession. Due to that customers are demanding low cost garments from their suppliers.
Because of high cost factor in Sri Lanka, most of the companies face difficulties in getting orders
and some were closed down. Recently Sri Lanka lost the Generalized System of Preferences +
(GSP+) concession; reduced tariff benefit from European Union (EU) and the apparel industry is in
big dilemma. There is a risk of losing jobs of many employees work in this industry and companies
now seek ways to minimize their cost in order to meet the competition by other low cost countries
such as China and Bangladesh.
In order to face this global challenge, most of the local apparel manufacturers have adopted
different strategies such as internal product design, seamless garments, six-sigma and Enterprise
Resource Planning (E.R.P.) systems to serve their customers more. The recent adoption is the Lean
Manufacturing to achieve low cost, short lead times and improved quality. Lean Manufacturing can
be defined as "A systematic approach to identify and eliminate waste through continuous
improvement by flowing the product at the demand of the customer.” [1] By eliminating waste in
the processes, companies can achieve a shorter lead time, lower cost, highest quality and can
achieve a competitive advantage over the others.
Since it is new to Sri Lankan apparel sector, there is not much background knowledge of how it
suits in Sri Lankan context. When implementing Lean Manufacturing, companies have to use Lean
tools and techniques introduced by Toyota. This must be managed and used carefully in order to
prevent potential failures. In this research, the author tries to identify the factors that influence the
implementation of Lean Manufacturing in Sri Lankan apparel sector.
The degree of usage of the Lean tools and techniques varies depending on the industry, people,
organizational culture, technology availability etc. In this research it is expected to identify a
suitable Lean model with appropriate tools and techniques that can be applied to the apparel sector
in Sri Lanka. After completing this research it is expected to add more and new knowledge to the
existing knowledge base. Also it will seek the answers for the following questions.

1. For how long Lean Manufacturing is being implemented in Sri Lankan apparel industry?
2. What are the tools and techniques introduced to the company?
3. Reasons to choose line wise, section wise, department wise and company wise the above
mentioned tools?
4. What are the tools that most of the companies avoid and why do they avoid them?
5. What is the sustainability of Lean tools and techniques?
6. What are the implementation strategies that suits Sri Lanka?
7. What are the challenges in implementing Lean?
8. How to overcome those challenges?
9. What are the benefits achieved after implementing Lean?

LITERATURE REVIEW
It is clear that almost every organization can adopt Lean Manufacturing to improve their businesses.
After going through the literature, it is evident that Lean Manufacturing is still somewhat new to
world. But it can be seen that usage and implementation of almost all Lean tools and techniques
have been increased annually. As per literature review, it seems that this is due to most of the
companies have come to the early implementation stage rather staying in planning stage.
Metal related industries are ahead in implementing Lean tools and techniques compared with
other industries. Paper and allied products, stone-clay-glass products, textile mill products, printing,
petroleum products, metal fabrication are the industries lag behind in implementing Lean
Manufacturing concepts.
The usage of Lean tools depends on the nature of industry, the plant size and the technological
capabilities of the country. Most of the industries tend to implement 5S and other visual management
tools. US industries use six-sigma somewhat heavily than the other countries [2]. United States of
America (USA) and Canadian industries use Value Stream Mapping (VSM) more than the small scale
Indian industries [3]. It is quite surprising that the Australian companies do not use kaizen,
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols. 110-116 4015

kanban and Group Technology (GT) as much as other countries. Instead they rely on Total Quality
Management (TQM) [4]. Just-In-Time (JIT), 5S, kaizen and standardized work are the most popular and
beneficial for printing industry in USA [5]. Furniture industry in United Kingdom (UK) use most of the
tools to some extent and most heavily used tools are the ones that can easily make visible shop floor
changes and also those that can quickly influence the financial status of the organization
[6]. Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) is not very popular due to a belief that improving
changeovers requires a large investment in new machinery or tooling. Computer industry in China
is somewhat ahead in applying Lean practices [7].
Small companies involved in contract manufacturing tools like cellular manufacturing become
challenging to implement, because they have a lot of different customers and schedule that change
all the time. They do not have enough consistency to setup cells. It can be seen that the backsliding
is one of the main barriers in implementing Lean around the globe. Lack of know-how and middle
management resistance are the next influenced factors. There is little senior management resistance
in implementing Lean in all the above analyzed countries. Budget constraint is another factor for
small companies compared with medium/ large companies. Also the analysis provides strong
support for the influence of plant size on Lean implementation, whereas the influence of
unionization and plant age is less influenced.
Reviewing about the local context, Lean Manufacturing is relatively new to Sri Lanka. Only
handful number of companies has implemented Lean in Sri Lanka. It can be seen that apart from the
other organizations, many apparel organizations have taken lots of initiatives to implement Lean
Manufacturing in their organizations. But the most common mistake they have made is that they try
to adapt the tools of Toyota Production System without adapting the underlined philosophy of Lean
Manufacturing.

RESEARCH DESIGN
Research Approach.Lean Manufacturing is used in organizational setting; it is difficult to do a
laboratory experiment with controlled variables. Therefore this research will be done using
qualitative research methods covering the factories those practice Lean Manufacturing in the shape
of questionnaires, interviews and observations. As a result the external validity of the variables is
high and this is important to generalize the results and apply it in similar context in future. Research
approach consists of seven main steps (Fig. 1).
The initial step is to study about the Lean Manufacturing. It starts by looking at how Lean
Manufacturing first began. Then it seeks to identify the core principles, tools and techniques of
Lean Manufacturing. After that an extensive literature review was carried out to find successful
Lean tools and techniques currently use in worldwide. Then it tries to identify tools which are used
frequently and which are not used. There was a study to find out the barriers of implementing other
tools and techniques. Then it examined the extent to which these tools and techniques are used in
apparel sector in Sri Lanka.
Next step is to develop tentative conceptual framework to analyze the current situation in Sri
Lankan apparel sector.
Then the data was collected and analyzed to identify the key characteristics of the Lean
implementation in Sri Lankan apparel sector.
Then based on the analyzed data, the author tries to identify key observations related to Lean
Manufacturing and develop a suitable Lean model with appropriate tools and techniques which can
be applied to increase the productivity in the apparel industry in Sri Lanka. After that propositions
are made based on the emerged Lean model.
Finally, conclusions were made regarding the implementation of Lean Manufacturing in apparel
sector in Sri Lanka.
Operationalization of Key Variables. There are certain factors that the management take in to
consideration when implementing Lean Manufacturing. Initial operationalization place the
guideline to the research by identifying the key factors that are considered by the management of
any organization on implementing Lean Manufacturing to an organization.
The relationship between the independent variables, dependent variables, indicators of those
variables, measure and source are summarized in Table I.
4016 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Research Methodology Population and sample .The total number of garment factories that have
implemented the Lean Manufacturing System in Sri Lanka, can be identified as the population.
Since the number of Lean implemented garments is around 15 (less than 30), it is difficult to
undertake hypothesis and correlational tests and the case study method was selected to do an in-
depth analysis. Five companies will be selected as the sample, based on judgmental sampling
procedure. Those companies come under two main groups of companies and can be recognized as
one of the most expertise plants in apparel manufacturing. Also these companies have somewhat
longer experience in implementing Lean compared to others.
Data collection .Data is collected through multi-methods in which interviews, questionnaires and
observations are used. Since multiple methods are in used, it is possible to mitigate the drawbacks
of each method and enhance the reliability of data being gathered and interpreted. Initially a pilot
study was done by distributing the questionnaire among the selected organizations. According to the
results of the pilot study the questionnaire was revised. The questionnaire was composed of close
ended questions as well as open ended questions. The questionnaire is answered by the general
managers, kaizen promotion officers, Lean champions, and Lean executives. Most of them have
proper background, understanding and implementation experience of the Lean Manufacturing
System. In order to facilitate transcription process, all the conversations between the author and the
interviewee were recorded which saves time and money. Partially Grounded Theory technique is
used to clarify the data collected from different sources and some respondents were again
interviewed to obtain missing data.
Data analysis. Since the sample size is small (<30), parametric statistical tests are not appropriate.
Therefore the responses gathered via interviews, questionnaires and observations were analyzed
using qualitative data analysis techniques such as comparison, naming and memoing. Graphical
means were used to illustrate the relationships between variables using the SPSS software.

Figure 1. Research Approach - Step by step


Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols. 110-116 4017

TABLE I. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLES, DEPENDENT VARIABLES, INDICATORS


OF DEPENDENT VARIABLES, MEASURE, AND SOURCE
Indicator of
Independent Dependent
dependent Measure Source
variable variable
variable
Line wise
Section wise Dichotomous By
Lean tool Introductory
Department wise (Yes/ No) supervisors
Company wise
Based on
observations,
Reasons to choose line wise, section wise, department wise Open ended
discussions
and company wise the above mentioned tools (Descriptive) done by the
researcher
> 3 years Based on
1 – 3 years Dichotomous observations,
Lean tool Sustainability 6 months - 1 year discussions
3 - 6 months (Yes/ No) done by the
< 3 months researcher
Segmentation
method
Lean team
Dichotomous
Lean tool Implementation Belt program
strategy Lean boot camp (Yes/ No) [9]
Through industrial
eng. dept.
Other
Backsliding
Lack of
implementation
know – how
Lack of training/
awareness
Senior management
resistance
Dichotomous
Lean tool Challenges [10], [11]
Middle
(Yes/ No)
management
resistance
Supervisor
resistance
Employee
resistance
Failure of past
projects
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Budget constraint
Lean viewed as
“flavor of the
month”
Financial value of
Lean not
recognized
Land and buildings
which are solid
Lack of multi-
talented employees
Plant size
Plant age
Unionization
Workshops
Presentations
Ways to Quality circles
Dichotomous
Lean tool overcome Leaflets / banners [9]
(Yes/ No)
challenges Belt program
Get involvement
Any other
Lower lead time
Lower inventory
Lower defects
Lower operational
costs
Reduction of space [9], Based on
utilization Dichotomous literature
Lean tool Benefits Reduced machine review done
breakdown (Yes/ No) by the
Better workplace researcher
organization
Improved customer
satisfaction
Improved employee
satisfaction
Validity and reliability
Credibility and quality of the research is very important and it is a requirement to show the
readers that the study was reliable and the results were valid. So the validity, reliability
(trustworthiness) and generalization of the results must be appropriate. The research is done by
interviewing the key persons who involve in implementing Lean Manufacturing in reputed
organizations. Peer debriefing and conformability techniques were used to check the consistency of
data gathered from different sources. So the gathered data is valid. If a similar study would be
conducted once again with the same sources the results would probably be the same. Thus it leads
to a conclusion that the data gathered to be reliable.
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols. 110-116 4019

Transferability
Transferability refers to the degree to which the results of qualitative research can be generalized
or transferred to other contexts or settings [8]. The results show that, there is room for other
researchers to develop different Lean implementation models for other industries based on these
findings.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION


Findings and Discussion in Relation to Research Questions .
1. For how long Lean Manufacturing is being implemented in Sri Lankan apparel industry?
It is clear that almost every apparel organization can adopt Lean Manufacturing to improve their
businesses. After going through the literature review and data analysis, it is evident that Lean
Manufacturing is still somewhat new to the world as well as the Sri Lankan apparel industry (less
than 5 years for Sri Lankan apparel industry).
2. What are the tools and techniques introduced to the company and the order of
implementation?
Sharing information via visual displays and controls is easy and it helps to run the production
process smoothly. Therefore most of the industries tend to implement 5S and other visual
management tools initially. These tools are the instant winners which can easily make visible shop
floor changes and quickly influence the financial status of the organization. This is same as Canada,
USA and India; countries mentioned in the literature review [2], [3].
Next, operation stability and continuous flow must be achieved via takt time, one piece flow,
cellular manufacturing, SMED, pull system etc. SMED is very popular in apparel industry in Sri
Lanka. This is quite contradictory compared with the global situation [5]. The reason may be those
countries use heavy machinery and SMED is not very popular due to a belief that improving
changeovers requires a large investment in new machinery or tooling.
Moreover implementation order is almost same for any industry which is stated by Womack and
Jones [12]. But the organizational culture must be thoroughly analyzed before introducing any
concept. Depending on the culture there may be slight modifications of the sequence Lean tools and
techniques are introducing.
3. Reasons to choose line wise, section wise, department wise and company wise the above
mentioned tools?
Companies have introduced most of the Lean tools and techniques line wise. The major reason for
doing that is, they can run the particular line as a pilot line before deploying the Lean concepts to
the whole factory. Also it prevents mistakes affecting bulk production and also the progress can be
shown to others. Other reasons are the ease of implementation and ease of awareness as it is limited
to a small area. Tools like VSM were introduced to the entire factory as to get a clear idea about the
whole operation.
4. What are the tools that most of the companies avoid and why do they avoid them?
It was found that even though most of the apparel manufactures have implemented most of the
Lean tools and techniques, the level of implementation and usage is varying. It is due to economic,
operational or organizational factors such as challenging economic conditions, high levels of
demand uncertainty, high –mix, low volume product portfolios, organization size and rigid
organizational structures.
5. What is the sustainability of Lean tools and techniques?
Most of the tools and techniques have been sustained for most of the companies for more than 1
year. Also it can be seen that sustainability is a problem for some tools which is a global issue. It is
found that one piece flow is difficult to sustain. The main reason is the operational stability is not
achieved 100%. This is due to inadequate change in the culture which must be gradually happen
while implementing Lean concepts.
6. What are the implementation strategies that suits Sri Lanka?
Lean Manufacturing has been implemented by various means in Sri Lankan apparel industry.
The experts are hired from outside consultancy firms and are highly trained in Lean concepts. Some
training is provided by in-house Lean champions via belt programs which is limited to some
4020 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

organizations. Most training combines classroom learning with shop floor practical exercises that
provides instant payback. Best practise involves developing a culture that encourages
experimentation and embraces failures as a learning experience which leads to employee
empowerment.
7. What are the challenges in implementing Lean?
It can be seen that the backsliding is one of the main barriers in implementing Lean around the
globe including Sri Lankan apparel industry. Lack of implementation know-how, supervisor
resistance and middle management resistance are the next influenced factors. This is because most
of the humans are reluctant to change. There is little senior management resistance in implementing
Lean in all analyzed countries in the literature review as well as Sri Lankan apparel industry.
8. How to overcome those challenges?
Most of the apparel manufactures have identified employees as their key assets. Employee
empowerment programs have started by all the companies as this is essential in future Lean journey.
Starting from training programs up to employee empowerment, a well structured human resource
plan is necessary when implementing Lean practices. This must be done by human resource
department in coordination with Lean teams.
9. What are the benefits achieved after implementing Lean?
Organizations that have implemented Lean Manufactruing systematically, have been able to gain
many benefits out of that implementation. 5S, kaizen, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and
problem solving are the most beneficial tools for apparel industry in Sri Lanka. 5S has led to
improved workplace organization, reduction of space utilization and increased productivity. Poka-
yoke techniques has reduced defects and improved employee satisfaction. Kaizen is reportedly
creating an operational cost reductions and productivity improvements while also raising shop floor
morale and employee empowerment. Takt time has been used successfully in line balancing and it
will support JIT. One piece flow, pull system and cellular manufacturing provide a low Work-In-
Progress (WIP) manufacturing solution that is particularly suited to low volume products in the
same product family. Kanban has reduced raw material stock and simplified ordering of those
creating some pull production. SMED has been used to make very significant reductions in setup
times and it will support heijunka. TPM has been shown to reduce maintenance costs and machine
downtime thereby increasing Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Regular reviewing of VSM
will identify the non-value adding activities and kaizen opportunities. Visual controls and displays
provide support in the workplace, simplifying many processes thereby saving time and money.
Jidoka has increased production quality and productivity while ensuring on-time delivery. Problem
solving techniques will help to eliminate operational variations in the process. Work standardization
has reduced process variability while encouraging problem solving.
Emerging Lean Model. The implementation order, method of introduction, implementation
strategy, sustainability, challenges faced, ways to overcome challenges, and benefits achieved
depends on the organizational culture. It is revealed that the culture consists of companies’ vision
and mission, leadership, mutual respect of employees, trend towards new concepts, kaizen mindset,
teamwork and educational level. Therefore a well structured and integrated approach is needed
when implementing Lean Manufacturing.
Based on the data analysis, the tentative conceptual model can be modified as in Fig. 2 to fullfil
the primary objective of the research.
Propostions derived from the Lean Model. Following are some of the proposistions derived from
the emerging Lean model.
 In order to implement Lean tools and techniques succesfully, organizational culture plays a
vital role. Culture has several components; vision and mission, leadership, structure, mutual
respect, trend towards new concepts, kaizen mindset, team work and educational level.
Hence organizational culture of the firm is an intervening variable to bridge the relationship
between Lean tools and their successful implementation.

 If correct implemention order, methods and implementation strategies are used, most of the
 tools tend to sustain.
 Correct implementation strategies will lead to less challenges and resistances when
implementing Lean.
Applied Mechanics and Materials Vols. 110-116 4021

 If the challenges are high, organizations must find effective ways of overcoming those
 challenges.
  If the challenges are high, chances of sustainability is low for any tool.
 If there are significant benefits, chances of sustaining those tools and techniques are very
high.

Figure 2. Emerging Lean Model

CONCLUSION
Conclusion.Lean Manufacturing can be applied to mass production apparel industries and has made
positive impacts. As implementation of Lean concepts is still in development stage, the full benefit
is not achieved yet. But current situation suggests that the industry can go forward with Lean.
Successful Lean implementation requires many factors such as introduction method, order of
implementation, implementation method, etc. In this research the author has come up with a model
which can be used to implement Lean in a systematic manner. Therefore organizations can use the
research outcomes as a knowledge base to overcome the problematic areas. Findings of this
research can be valuable to other organizations of Sri Lanka, which hope to implement Lean in the
near future. Also the results can be used as extra guidelines to those who already practice Lean
unsuccessfully.
Implications.
 Managerial implication
This research supports mangers in decision making process. It guides them along the correct path
of implementing Lean Manufacturing effectively starting from the cultural change up to level
production. It will help them to select the best implementation order, method of introduction,
implementation strategy, and ways to overcome challenges accordingly.
Also it reveals that plant age is a problem for conducting kaizen in some organizations whereas
plant size has not been much of a problem for many tools except for cellular manufacturing.
 Theoretical implication
The Lean model derived can be used as a theoretical model when studying about effective Lean
implementation in apparel industry. It can be further modified to suit the global scenario. This will
help the academics to study more on Lean Manufacturing.
Limitations.The implementation of Lean Manufacturing system in Sri Lankan apparel industry is at
primary stage due to factors such as lack of resources and limited awareness. At the same time those
organizations which have adopted this mechanism, are practicing it for less than 5 years. Therefore
the study is limited by the sample size and this is an inherent limitation of case study research type.
Also some organizations and individuals hesitate to provide information about the Lean
Implementation process since they have competitors.
4022 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Further Research. Based on the proposed model, statistical tests such as hypothesis and
correlation tests can be carried out to validate the model by further identifying the specific
relationships between the independent, intervening and dependent variables.
Lean Manufacturing is widely used in other industries as well. But there are not enough literature
covering those industries. Therefore there are plenty of opportunities to carry out research work in
other industries about the viability of Lean Manufacturing tools and techniques.

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