Ashish Kumar Roy,
Former General Manager, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, India; Research Scholar, Siksha O
Anusandhan University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Toyota’s manufacturing philosophy of the 1980’s caused a stir in the manufacturing world because of the amazing results it produced on three key areas- quality, cost & delivery. Toyota Productions System (TPS) also got formalized as Lean manufacturing, an innovative thought process aimed at removal of waste in all its forms. Sustained efforts were made by the researchers world over to decipher this competitive success traced to the Toyota Production System. Early contributors to the field were Schonberger, 1982; Shingo, 1989; Mehra and Inman, 1992, Adler, 1993, Womack and Jones, 1994, Liker, 1998, Sobek et al 1998, Spear and Bowen, 1999 etc. A path-breaking book written by Womack et al (1990) “The Machine that Changed the World”, created manufacturing revolution and changed the way most of the industries looked at the production process . The term “Lean Production” coined by Krafcik (1988)  was explained by Womack et al and was further developed by Karlsson (1992). Lean Manufacturing originated in the Automobile Sector but was soon adopted almost 15 years later after a lot of research work went into the field. Murman et al., 2002 ; Nightingale & Mize 2002, James Moore & Gibbons (1997) were the few researchers who contributed to the Lean Production Implementation in Aerospace in many other sectors. However, Lean Manufacturing made entry to Aerospace Sector.
Researchers from many countries continue to work on the Lean Production principles; however case studies on adoption & implementation of Lean Production have been few. Implementation cases in Aerospace have been still fewer. The main aim of this study is to examine implementation cases in Aerospace Manufacturing Companies across the world. Case studies on some of the global majors in Aerospace Industries are taken up here bringing out key learnings from the implementation experience which have got applicability in Indian Aerospace industries as well. Areas requiring continuation of further research are also suggested.
Japan, a tiny yet a determined Nation ravaged by the World War II, was struggling hard to re-establish its strength in all the spheres, economic strength being the main focus area. Enhancing productivity multifold & shedding the image of poor quality became the key priorities for its manufacturing industries. The relentless efforts finally yielded amazing results when Japanese Automakers, led by Toyota, caught the attention of the whole world in the mid 1980s with their superior quality and reasonably low cost. This competitive success was traced to the Toyota Production System which fascinated many leading researchers, to name a few, Schonberger, 1982, Ohno (1988), Shingo, 1989; Mehra and Inman, 1992, Adler, 1993 , Womack et al (1990), Womack and Jones, 1994, Monden (1997), Liker, 1998, Sobek et al 1998, Spear and Bowen, 1999 and few others in later years. Academicians & industry practitioners world over tried to decode the Toyota manufacturing approach of the 1980s and this total approach came to be known as Lean Manufacturing since final outcome realized was amazing with deployment of fewer resources. The development of the lean manufacturing concept was the outcome of the research carried out at MIT to study how management practices impacted manufacturing performance. The findings of the 5-year-long research project by the International Motor Vehicle Programme (IMVP) are contained in the book “The Machine That Changed the World” (Womack et al, 1990) .
Toyota manufacturing approach in essence is elimination of waste in all its forms and has been successfully implemented in many parts of the world. New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), USA is an example of successful application of lean manufacturing. The research work by Adler (1993) , Shah and Ward (2003) establishes that lean manufacturing enhances operating performance significantly. However, there are many organizations where the implementation records are not very encouraging. Bhasin and Burcher (2006)  ascribe this to failure on the part of the organizations to deal with Lean Manufacturing as a strategy rather than as a philosophy.
Case studies dealing with the automobile industries, where superior performance have been achieved due to implementation of Lean Manufacturing principles, are many but case studies in aerospace industries has been few and case studies on implementation in Indian aerospace industries are almost nonexistent.
“Better, Faster, Cheaper” (BFC) emerged as a new paradigm for aerospace products in the 1990s. This paper examines some of the underlying factors for BFC and some thoughts to help frame the thinking and action of aerospace industry professionals in this era. This paper is an attempt to study the Lean Implementation practices in Aerospace Companies which could achieve phenomenal success in performance. The study, while bringing out the match between principles and practices, has answered many questions but has not been able to support some prompting new lines of research.
The organization of other sections of the paper is as follows. Section 2 deals with the review on Lean Production Principles and Practices as available from the published literature.
Section 3 describes the research approach and research design planned in our study. Section 4 examines the adoption process of Lean Management in Aerospace. Section 5 narrates case studies of lean production implementation in Aerospace Manufacturing Companies. Section 6 outlines important Lean Manufacturing frameworks. Section 7 describes the dynamics of Lean Manufacturing moving in the direction of a Lean Enterprise. Section 8 lists key learnings from the lean production implementation. Section 9 presents some critical observations and summarizes the findings of the case studies while suggesting further work in this direction.
2. Brief review of Literature
Lean Manufacturing, as an organizational philosophy, evolved over time and grew with the contributions of many experts across different countries. A brief literature review is attempted to trace the genesis of the development.
2.1 Literature on Japanese Manufacturing philosophy – the early days.
Western researchers could get the first glimpse of the factors behind the success of some Japanese companies including Toyota Motor Corporation from the first ever paper in English by Sugimori and colleagues (1977) on Japanese Manufacturing practices. It was convincingly shown that the success in performance was primarily due to the manufacturing management practices rather than the contextual factors like culture, institutional arrangements, wage structure etc. (Hayes, 1981). Early literature contained narrations by both Japanese and Western observers on the functioning of the Japanese companies. Production system of Toyota Motor Corporation was the main theme of the papers by Monden (1981a; 1981b; 1981c; 1981d) which eventually led to the publication of a path-breaking book named “Toyota Production System (Monden, 1983)” . One of the founding fathers of the Toyota production systems, Shingo (1981) also published a book in English. It became clear that the success of some of the Japanese companies was contributed to by the manufacturing management practices rather than by any Japan-specific contextual factors.
Schonberger (1982)  is the first Western author to have systematically analyzed these findings in his influential book Japanese Manufacturing Techniques. He attributed the Japanese success to the two fundamental building blocks, namely «just-in-time» and «total quality control”. He also examined the transferability of Japanese manufacturing management practices to the West. Cultural differences between countries were not found to come in the way of the transfer.
2.2 Applications of Japanese Manufacturing Management Philosophy in the West
Application of Japanese manufacturing management practices to Western industries was the next line of research with Schonberger (1982a)  as an early contributor with his description of Kawasaki in Nebraska, the company utilizing the concepts of just-in-time and total quality control successfully. Schonberger (1986) in his next book cited cases of U. S. companies where Japanese manufacturing management practices could be implemented effectively.
Japanese manufacturing management practices were also transferred to British companies. Turnbull (1986; 1988) explained how Lucas Electrical in Birmingham got phenomenal results with application of just-in-time concept.
Krafcik (1988)  argued with the help of many case studies that better results accrue from certain manufacturing systems rather than their connections with a specific nation. He felt that instead of eulogizing Japanese manufacturing management practices, the focus should be on the discussion of the Toyota production system (TPS), which Krafcik termed «lean production».
2.3 Lean Production Terminology
The term «lean production» has been chosen in the present study since it has got widespread acceptance, both in research and in practice. Voss (1995) underlined that the term also reflected the full scope of Japanese manufacturing management practices justifying its suitability for use . Implementation studies on lean production have been both conceptual and empirical.
2.4 Sequences in the implementation of Lean Production
A company planning to implement the improvement initiatives faces a basic dilemma – whether to adopt a sequential or a parallel approach. In fact, studies on implementation have been few and there were only three major studies carried out in the early years. One such study had a lot of impact by Par Ahlstrom with Christer Karlsson . Ahlstrom and Karlsson published a series of papers that threw light on the issues. Hayes et al, 1988 expressed the view that the elements could not be implemented in isolation.
3. Research Approach & Research Design
The objective of this study was to collect information on lean principles and lean manufacturing implementation cases through a comprehensive literature review. While studying the implementation cases attention is directed at aerospace industries of the world in general.
The author’s experience in the Indian aerospace industry for over three decades and his close professional interaction with some global aerospace industry leaders have been factored in. The present study aims at taking a process view of the implementation. A process view incorporates a study of implementation through longitudinal research, which helps to find causal relationships and is particularly beneficial in resolving the dilemma whether to implement manufacturing improvement initiatives sequentially or in parallel (Ahlstrom, 1997) .This approach was pursued while studying the global aerospace leaders.
The study utilizes the clinical methodology, which is characterized by the researcher participating in and studying organizational change from within the organization. This methodology was adopted since the author was a Lean Resource Team Leader during the implementation of Lean Manufacturing practices in an Indian aerospace manufacturing industry major which had also served as a major subcontractor to some of the Aerospace leaders of the world referred to in this study and which had achieved stupendous success in lean implementation.
3.1 Reasons for Choosing the Clinical Methodology
The rationale for the choice of the clinical methodology was the problem of access. Clinical research offers a possibility to overcome the problem of access.
3.2 Data Collection for the Adoption Process
Three different methods of data collection were used: participant observation, interviews, and documents. Participant observation was adopted as the mode for collection of bulk data.
The author as a Lean Resource Team Leader in an Indian Aerospace company which had served as a major subcontractor to the global aerospace leaders had participated in the implementation, and data collection was an essential part of the process. Participant observation enables the researcher to record action as it happens, without depending on recollection of events or actions (Scott, 1965). Interviews were to some extent used as a data collection method. Understanding of the adoption process becomes clear by engaging the organization members in discussion. A final source of data was documentation.
3.3 Analysis – a Qualitative Approach
In the present study, for data collection and analysis the techniques of Qualitative research have been followed . There are various reasons for this. Rather than serving as the measurement of organizational phenomena in a Qualitative research emphasis is laid on the meaning (Daft, 1983). Morgan and Smircich (1980) point out that Qualitative research can be seen as an approach rather than a set of techniques. Nothing prevents the qualitative researcher from using data collection and analysis techniques considered «quantitative», such as statistical techniques. Daft (1983) also holds the view that “quantitative techniques” employing statistics can also be used by qualitative researchers. Kirk and Miller (1986) elaborate that reliability and validity as defined for quantitative research may have to be modified suitably to fit qualitative research.
4. Adoption of Lean Management in Aerospace
4.1 Lean Management Adoption Process.
“Better, Faster, Cheaper” (BFC) emerged as a new paradigm for aerospace products in the 1990s. Some of the underlying factors for BFC and some thoughts to help frame the thinking and action of aerospace industry professionals in this era are examined. In fact, Aerospace sector adopted Lean Management (LM) quite late, almost 15 years later than the Automotive Sector which was the leader in the field (e. g., Crute et al., 2003).
The following factors emerge from a literature review on Lean Management.
4.1.a Trigger Factors For Lean Management Adoption
The early 1990s which were marked by the end of the Cold War witnessed a shrinking of defence and space budgets and declining sale of civil aircraft which acted as triggers for many significant changes in the A&D sector. Key attributes like performance, quality and schedule were required to be maintained with significantly reduced costs (Murman et al., 2002 ; Nightingale & Mize, 2002). The sector’s competitive priorities were reshaped by the changed government policies, global commercial market and challenges born of technological changes. The competitive priorities of A&D sector started following those of the automotive sector (e. g., James-Moore et al., 1997; Akbulut-Bailey et al., 2012). Improvements in quality, cost & delivery, reduction in costs, inventory and time to market became the new competitive priorities (James-Moore & Gibbons, 1997; Philips, 1999). These changes acted as trigger factors for adopting LM meanwhile. Many other authors indicated some more trigger factors.
4.1.b Applicability of LM in Aerospace Sector
James-Moore & Gibbons (1997) and many other researchers highlighted the difficulty of transferring LM from the automotive sector to the aerospace sector . Such characteristic features of the aerospace sector like low production volumes, high-complexity products, and constant changes of configuration are cited to pose difficulties for LM implementation. However Murman et al (2002) proved the suitability of LM to aerospace sector quoting successful Lean transformations in different aerospace segments e. g. commercial and military aircraft, engines, avionics hardware and software, missiles, and space launch systems . Browning and Heath (2009) and some others however pointed out that a variety of contingent factors in the sector, namely high degrees of novelty, complexity and instability are to be evaluated before adopting LM; improper evaluation might lead to a rise in the production cost.
4.2 Lean Management Implementation Process
A comprehensive literature review has helped cluster various papers around key themes.
A certain cluster of research papers has dealt with the development of implementation models and some other cluster has dealt with LM implementation case studies. One cluster of papers has dealt with the key factors that should be managed for implementation. Certain factors facilitate while some others inhibit implementation. A group of papers also deals with contingent factors pertinent to the sector that affects implementation.
Applicability of practices and tools suiting the Company’s context poses a great challenge. Jina et al., 1997 examined this aspect in detail. Browning & Heath (2009), McKenzie and Jayanthi (2007) highlighted the importance of analyzing the trade-offs that come from decisions to reduce batch sizes and costs in the sector and helped decision-making by developing a model for decision-taking in a range of demand scenarios.
It is interesting to note that most of the researchers, namely Womack & Jones, 1996 ; Bamber & Dale, 2000; Crute et al., 2003 found that the majority of difficulties in Lean Implementation in the aerospace sector pertains to generic factors rather than to sector-specific factors. Crute et al., 2003; Akbulut-Bailey et al., 2012; Sacrist n-D az et al., 2012 highlight the role of the customer at the level of LM implementation. Womack & Jones, 1996; Bamber& Dale, 2000; Murman et al., 2002; Crute et al., 2003; Akbulut-Bailey et al., 2012 point to the role of people which includes management & shop floor workers. Womack & Jones, 1996; Bamber& Dale, 2000 and few other researchers indicate the importance of organizations’ hierarchical structures. Modarress et al., 2005; Parry and Turner, 2006 point to the role of communication, Bamber& Dale, 2000; Crute et al., 2003 emphasize the importance of a suitable measurement system matching the company’s needs. Mathaise & Comm, 2000; Murman
et al., 2002; Crute et al., 2003 elaborated the crucial “enterprise focus”.
4.3 Results: Impact on performance
LM’s impact on performance has been another important line of research. LM is found by many researchers to influence operating results positively. Some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) have shown significant improvements. Womack & Jones, 1996; Murman et al., 2002; Greenwood et al., 2002; Crute et al., 2003; Parry & Turner, 2006; Akbulut-Bailey et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2012 contributed to the research which has shown reductions in lead time, cycle, throughput and setup times, non-value-added times, unnecessary movements, inventory levels, factory floor space, scraps and reworks, batch size and costs etc after LM implementation.
Improvements are also noticed in inventory turnover, flexibility, first-time quality, delivery reliability, and productivity. Several authors like Womack & Jones, 1996; Murman et al., 2002; Beauregard et al., 2011 highlighted improvements to the results in product design and development like reductions in lead times, throughput times and engineering changes, among other things. Many researchers found significant improvements to financial results in KPIs such as increased customer satisfaction, market share, sales and profits due to LM implementation.
5. Lean Manufacturing implementation cases
Lean manufacturing quickly found its place in the leading Aerospace companies of the world since these were looking for superior performance in quality, cost and delivery. These companies were in the business of producing aircraft, aero engines, missiles and space equipment where best practices in technology and management were the keys to survival. Some of the case studies which drew the attention of the world are narrated.
5.1 Case study on Lean Manufacturing Implementation at the Boeing Company
The Lean journey introduced by the Boeing Company towards a Lean Enterprise makes an interesting study and a success story  Stoppage of “cost-plus” contracts by the Government for the aero products supplied by Boeing (Defence Aerospace Group) acted as a “corporate driver”. Earlier practice was to pay to Boeing a fixed amount of profit for each contract which was now not guaranteed. They had to reduce costs to maintain or increase profits. Boeing started looking for breakthrough changes in productivity. Toyota Production Systems or Lean Manufacturing system came to the Company’s rescue.
Toyota Production System (TPS) was adopted suitably by Boeing with some changes and it came to be known as Boeing Production System (BPS) which depicts how all the elements of lean fits together. Subsequently, Boeing departed from the classical Toyota model and internal innovation resulted in what was known as the Tailored Business Stream (TBS). TBS grouped all the work elements into (e. g., parts, processes, activities, and data) into three categories: Basic and Stable, Reusable (including available options), and Custom and was used for Commercial Airplane products. This was a step in developing simple and cost-effective solution.
Situations during World War–II pushed Boeing to employ highly productive methods for building B-17 bomber which was quite similar to “Lean” in modern times. In the mid – 1980s Boeing embarked on the Lean journey of the 1980s which was marked by introduction of Quality Circles and Productivity Circles. An integrated “Lean Strategy” in Boeing Commercial Airplane followed with the beginning of world class competitiveness training, 5S and just in time (JIT) production. Lean was pursued in the whole of the Boeing Company by 1999. A strategy named 9 Tactics was adopted in 2000 in Boeing 737 Final Assembly to ensure continuous flow . The following are the details: Tactic 1 Value Stream mapping Tactic 2 Balance the Line Tactic 3 Standard Work, Tactic 4 Visuals in Place, Tactic 5 Point of Use Staging, Tactic 6 Feeder Lines, Tactic 7 Process Breakthrough Redesign, Tactic 8 Pulse Line, Tactic 9 Moving Line. This strategy was quickly adopted in the assembly lines of other projects. Final Assembly for the 717, manufactured in Long Beach, California initiated a pulsed line which was basically an automobile production technique. It took another year, until September of 2001, to get to tactic 9, a moving line. The moving line was adopted in the 737 and 757 programmes in 2001 and 2002 at Boeing facility in Renton, Washington. Soon moving lines were seen in other commercial airplane programs.
Innovative moving lines based on lean strategy in Boeing 737 programmes caught the attention of the airplane manufacturing companies for the amazing results it produced. In the period from 1999 to 2004, the factory cycle time was reduced by 46%. Inventory came down by 59%, work in progress inventory was reduced by 55% and factory foot print was reduced by 21%. Flow time in final assembly came down from 22 days to 11 days with a target of 8 days.
Moving line was set at 2 inches per minute, calibrated to team task time with point of use kits. Inventory levels dropped to 42%, floor space reduced by 216,000 sqft. The moving line system was replicated in the assembly lines of other aircraft with great success.
Apache helicopter programmes produced at Mesa, Arizona was the greatest success story of Lean Manufacturing Strategy. The military wanted new helicopters, reworking used helicopters, and upgrading used vehicles very fast. Innovative Lean Strategy ensured reduction of build hours by 67%, cycle time by 69%, and defects by 90%.This facility, due to its remarkable results, earned the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing in 2004–2005 which is dubbed the Nobel Prize of manufacturing.
A techno-cultural evolution came into being through management support, moved by passionate champions and ignited by the external pressures of ramping production and government contract changes.
Many consultants and champions contributed to these breakthrough improvements. Guidance of Dr. Juran is 1984 at Boeing Aerospace Company (Defence Aerospace Company), Dr. Deming is 1986 at Wichita, Boeing Commercial Aero Plane Company, Japan study tour of 1990 by Boeing Executives and participation in Shingi Jutsu Japan Kaizen seminars from 1995 onward etc. ensured that Boeing becomes a success story in Lean Manufacturing implementation.
5.2 Case Study of Lean Manufacturing Implementation at Airbus
Implementation of Lean practices transformed an Airbus factory. Implementation of lean at Airbus follows a six step process . The six steps deal with value, value stream mapping, flow, pull, improvement.repetition, in that order. Each of the six steps contains various lean elements. To move from one step to another, the Elements within each step should be implemented before moving to the next step. The final step dealing with repetition serves as a confirmation of all the previous steps that have been implemented.
Airbus, formally established in December 1970 in France was founded by a grouping of leading German Aircraft Manufacturing firms. Starting with A300, its first Twin Engine wide body Airliner to fill the gap in the market and to challenge American supremacy in the Aviation industry, Airbus gained the status of a major player in its aircraft market with the launch of the Airbus A320 in 1981. A 320 was more advanced, fuel efficient and smaller. Airbus continued to grow both in the civilian and military aircraft. Airbus is an EADS company (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) that employs over 57,000 people.
Boeing and Airbus had been in head on competition from the beginning. With Boeing achieving magnificent turnaround with lean initiatives, Airbus followed suit.
In four years, the Airbus factory in North Wales, which produces wings for all the company’s airliners, had reduced the quality of defects by 62%. The delivery of the wings to Airbus’s final assembly plant in France which took place only 18% of time in 1990’s became 100% in 2001 after formal implementation of Lean practices.
Airbus achieved amazing results with the introduction of Lean manufacturing practices.
Some of these are 80% reduction in the Lead time and kitting inventory for A 320 Family production, reduction of inbound processing time by 70%, 51% improvement in internal customer satisfaction score, 30% recorded improvement in stock integrity levels, saving of 16,000 man-hours throughout the Internal Supply Chain and Manufacturing areas, reduction in operational head count, improved layouts and material flow releasing required floor space etc.
5.3 Case study on Lean Manufacturing Implementation at Pratt & Whitney (P&W)
Lean principles have been the way of life in Pratt & Whitney (P&W) for many years. Jim Womack, the author of the bestseller “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation” (1996), studied one of the P&W manufacturing facilities in its time of greatest crisis and put the findings in Chapter 8m (The Acid Test), demonstrating how the conversion from “mass to lean production system” saved the company from being wiped out and reestablished its position of superiority . The innovative methods are captured in an integrated system called Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE). Application of lean in the processes and value streams is found in all the functions in programme management, manufacturing and the supply chain through ACE from 2005. Ward’s Lean Product Development model which is based on a four pillar model: Teams of Responsible Experts, Cadence, pull and flow, and the Entrepreneur System Design has been guiding the reduction in time for the product development efforts from 2009. Pratt and Whitney’s “Lean Product Development Best Practices Book” is a consolidated document on application of lean to “product development“ efforts.
Pratt and Whitney makes a very important case study for Lean Manufacturing Implementation practices in aero-engines, an important sector of aerospace manufacturing. The author had participated directly in the implementation of lean manufacturing practice of Pratt and Whitney while establishing a production facility for key components outsourced by the company to the Indian Aerospace Company where the author worked in key positions.
6. Existing Frameworks of LM – a review
A framework from an organizational perspective can be defined as “a guiding torch that helps a manager in providing necessary direction during the change management programmes that are implemented in an organization”. It explains “what constitute a change management programme” or it may discuss “how to carry out the implementation of change management programmes”.
Thirty frameworks are revealed during a brief literature review. Some of the important ones are the following:
- A framework on the concept of LM.
- An operationalized model for LM.
- A framework for LM from process of adoption perspective.
- A framework for assessing manufacturing changes towards lean production.
- A framework on lean manufacturing by Adams et al.
- A framework on lean manufacturing by Czarnecki and Loyd.
- A framework on lean manufacturing in use at Airbus.
- The house of Toyota production system and lean ship building framework.
- Boeing Production System.
- Chrysler Operating System (COS).
6.1 Existing frameworks based on its type
The LM frameworks under review were categorized as “design/conceptual” frameworks and “implementation” frameworks in line with the definition of “model and framework” by Yusuf and Aspinwall. Yusuf and Aspinwall (2000) in their paper on Total Quality Management differentiated the term “model” with “framework” stating that the former answers the question “what is” and the later answers the question “how to” which provides a way forward. Precisely the “framework” is defined as a “prescriptive set of things to do” . It is found that the number of frameworks under the “implementation” framework category is much lower. None of the frameworks except that of Ahlstrom and Karlsson provided a description of “what sequence is to be followed while implementing the LM elements?” In other words, which elements of LM should be implemented first and which elements should be implemented at the end? What is the prerequisite for implementing the LM elements? Existing frameworks do not address such questions.
7. Lean Production & emerging focus on lean enterprise
Womack’s bestseller “The Machine that Changed the World” (Womack et aI., 1990), changed the way most of the industries looked at the production process. It was he who elaborated the term «lean production» defined by Krafcik (1988b) for the first time. Subsequently many associated terms with their specific meaning and scope were developed by many other authors. Womack and Jones (1994) brought in another the term «the lean enterprise» to define a group of companies. Womack and Jones, (1996) also coined a term “lean thinking” to denote several aspects of organizational life.
Lean production spans several functional areas (Figure 2). The three important terms need to be defined at this stage e. g. Lean Productions principles, Lean Productions practices and Lean Production performance: Lean Production Principles: The principles act as the building blocks of the lean production concept. Each principle refer to a particular aspect of the manufacturing system. In Figure 2, the principles are Elimination of waste, Zero defects, Pull instead of push and so on. The principles act as the building blocks of the lean production concept.
Lean Production Practices: Dean and Bowen (1994) explained that principles contain a set of practices to help achieve desired performance.
Lean Production Performance: Enhancing performance e. g. increasing productivity, improving quality, reducing lead times and costs is the goal of adopting lean production.
8. Learning from lean implementation in Aerospace Sector
The case studies on the surveyed Aerospace Companies covered airplanes & aero engine manufacturing areas. Though functionally and technically the areas were little different, the lean philosophy and implementation practices had a common strand contributing to some key learning points. The contingent factors, facilitating factors and inhibiting factors had been examined by their Corporate Strategists. The achievement of planned business results was basically due to the sustained push and nurturing of the facilitating factors in these industries. Key learnings for future reference by companies in the aerospace sector are enumerated below.
Facilitating Factors: Organisations must have a clear concept of the facilitating factors and internalize them. The details are discussed in the earlier sections of the paper. Some of these are: giving primacy to customers’ voice, commitment of highest level and continuity in leadership of management, especially at senior level, continued Lean training, setting up multifunctional and empowered work teams and visual process management etc.
1. Overcoming difficulties in Lean Manufacturing implementation: Role of the customer, role of people, organization structures (hierarchical), communication, instituting a measurement system suited to company’s need are some of the factors organizations may have to pay attention to ensuring that difficulties in LM implementation are managed properly. In fact, these factors are generic, rather than sector specific. This has been substantiated by the research done by Womack & Jones (1996), Bamber & Dale (2000), Crute et al (2003) which have been discussed at length in the earlier sections of the paper.
2. Sustaining a Learning Culture: Senge (1990) says, “The organizations that will truly excel in the future, will be the ones that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization” . At Toyota, teaching and learning evolve through unique relationships among managers, supervisors, and workers. All the global aerospace leaders followed the practice religiously to achieve success in the lean implementation practice leading to business excellence.
3. Sequences in the implementation of Lean Production: Research on manufacturing improvement sequences indicates that there are sequences of improvement initiatives in Manufacturing. There are some other researchers who argue that improvement initiatives can run in parallel, while some other researchers argue that the initiatives can be a combination, running both in parallel and sequentially. The work of Par Ahlstrom supports the latter.
9.1 For a manufacturing company success lies in sensing the environmental changes and adopting to the best practices the fastest. That has been, in short, the essence of the Lean Transformation at the aerospace companies. It has been propelling these companies forward towards the Lean Enterprise, the model which has been dealt with at length by Mohanty et al (2007)  in their incisive paper on the Implementation of Lean Manufacturing Principles in Auto industry (Figure 3).
The paper has tried to consolidate key learning points for the automobile sector which has got great relevance for the lean implementation in the Aerospace industries as well. The case studies dealt by us in the Aerospace industries also substantiate this. The paper has tried to establish the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for organizational excellence in the face of turbulence in economic and market conditions. Further, it has tried to provide directions for the managerial personnel translating the corporate plans into actionable points.
A more rigorous statistical analysis of the case study will be desirable to have in the future to validate the findings with statistical significance.
9.2 The Lean Advancement Institute (LAI) of MIT has developed Self-Assessment Tools to quantify the transformation of Aerospace Industries towards Lean Enterprise that will help the aerospace industries in self-reflection and provide a road map for the closure of gaps. The latest version 2.0 of the LAI Enterprise Self Assessment Tool LESAT) was released in Feb 2012  which was an improvement over version 1.0 brought out in 2001 based on a lot of theoretical and empirical research work carried out at MIT for the Aerospace Industries. This area opens many interesting areas for both theoretical and empirical research in the future to benefit the aerospace industries in their lean manufacturing implementation journey.
9.3 Incremental product technologies for improving productivity and quality, process technology and technological innovations that present superior product substitutes are highly representative of the current thinking in the aerospace industry – Better, Faster, Cheaper. Significant opportunities exist for design, engineering and manufacturing process improvements based upon Lean practices. Focused attempt to achieve best lifecycle value with a holistic systems engineering approach and lean practices will lead to a framework for future actions.
Earll S Murman et al in their recent paper named ”Challenges in the BFC era of Aeronautical Design, Engineering and Manufacturing“ pointed out that Lean Thinking is going to shape innovation that is so vital for excellence in the Aerospace Industries which reveals many areas where further research on lean implementation should continue.
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