Lean Distribution: Concepts, Contributions, Conflicts

Reichhart, Andreas and Holweg, Matthias (2007) Lean Distribution: Concepts, Contributions, Conflicts. International Journal of Production Research, 45 (16). pp. 3699-3722.


Despite the fact that the benefits of lean production have been documented across many industry settings, firms find it difficult to extend lean principles downstream into their distribution systems. In this paper we review and synthesize previous contributions on lean principles towards defining a framework of lean distribution. Furthermore, based on an in-depth case study of a vehicle manufacturer's efforts to implement a lean vehicle distribution system, some of its key benefits are discussed and quantified. We further find that the attainment of responsiveness in order to reduce waste from the distribution system requires substantial commitment across the entire organization, yet such efforts may also lead to excess flexibility and the attainment of capabilities that are misaligned with actual market requirements. We use the underlying case to explore the wider conflicts between lean distribution and lean production, and highlight strategies of how these issues can be resolved. We conclude that applying differential strategies by market segment can result in a supply chain that is both responsive and efficient, suggesting that the perceived trade-off between the needs to be lean and able to respond to changes in demand can be reconciled.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Lean production, Supply chain management, Responsive, Agile, Build-to-order, Automotive industry
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2015 15:42
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2015 15:42
Funders: N/A
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/5588

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