Lean and Digitalization—Contradictions or Complements?
IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology
von Cieminski, G.
Lean has been the dominant production paradigm for the past few decades. With its focus on reducing complexity, lean suggests to limit the use of digital technologies on the shop floor. Recent advancements in digital technologies, however, promise significant improvements through its ability to manage complexity. This apparent conflict raises the question as to whether these two paradigms—lean and digitalization—contradict or complement each other. Furthermore, there is ambiguity about whether or not firms should excel in lean before investing in digitalization. This paper contributes to this discussion through an empirical investigation of this relationship. It draws on survey data from Swiss manufacturers as well as consecutive interviews with selected firms. The analyses indicate a positive correlation between the digital maturity and the lean maturity of firms. This relationship is discussed from two perspectives: first, how digitalization can support lean and, second, how lean can support digitalization. Furthermore, the different characteristics of companies of different maturities in lean and digitalization are examined. It is concluded that a favorable organizational culture and some specific continuous improvement practices help the mature implementers of lean and digitalization to achieve superior operational performance.