From Japan to Sweden; Lean Product Development System in Cultural Contexts (Mechanical Project)

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Irresistibly, Lean has been well-known among manufacturers around the world for quite sometimes due to Toyota success story of Toyota Production System (TPS) or so-called Lean manufacturing. Now that many organizations are going toward the concept of Lean enterprise, this thesis tries to study about Lean Product Development System (LPDS) which is a part it.

Owing to the fact that LPDS is a socio-technical system originated from Japanese cultural background, to understand and should how LPDS is adopted in Swedish organizations become our main purpose. The thesis consists of three research questions- i.e. 1) what are pros and cons of LPDS, 2) what is Swedish style LPDS and how does it compare to the original Japanese one, and 3) should Swedish companies transform LPDS into their organizations; if yes, how.

This study adopts a cultural framework to analyze and compare the Swedish LPDS and the Japanese one. The thesis can be separated into three main theoretical parts- i.e. LPDS, cultures, and change management. Two managers from two companies, one LPDS consultant, and one PhD student were interviewed for empirical data.

Regarding to the first research question, both primary (interview) and secondary data are used; in order to analyze advantages and weaknesses of LPDS. Then, based on a literature review and empirical findings, Swedish LPDS principles were concluded and compared to the Japanese ones according to the second research question. Lastly, Swedish cultures, creativity perspective, and change management theories were deployed to provide managerial guidelines on how Swedes interpret and adopt LPDS in their organizations.

Accordingly, there are several pros and cons of LPDS (e.g. systematic decision making enhancement, transparency of information sharing, dynamic organizational learning) and they occur along the process of LPDS transformation into organizations. For cons, conclusion as of now is that most of LPDS weaknesses come from the method level, in which no one really knows what the real “Lean” is and leads to misinterpretation of principles.

Owing to the fact that LPDS is a socio-technical system, it requires firms to adapt their strategies and cultures before adopting LPDS principles. Hence, LPDS needs to be interpreted and put into use case by case, depending on organizational characteristics. There are 14 principles of Swedish LPDS as concluded in this study.

They are both similar and different from the Japanese original ones. The basic principles of LPDS, which are standardization, supplier involvement, continuous improvement, and visualization, are employed explicitly in both Japanese and Swedish LPDS. Moreover, both apply set-based concurrent engineering, front-loading, leveled product development process, and cross-functional team in NPD projects in their LPDS practices.

The main differences are that Swedish LPDS focuses more on enhancing creativity than those of Japanese. Moreover, leadership style differs due to different cultural background. Besides, some other minor differences are also pointed out in this report. This leads to an answer to the last research question. Swedes should adopt LPDS in incremental manners to develop their organizations into the direction lead by LPDS, while preserving the creativity which is beneficial to product development processes. Finally, some guidelines of LPDS interpretation and adoption are also suggested based on change management theories and Swedish cultures.
Source: Linköping University
Author: Preechachanchai, Oraphin | Wangwacharakul, Promporn

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