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Gliatis Vassilis

2005 - 2019 Phd Thesis Title: Lean Manufacturing Concepts in Service Environments (Εφαρμογές Εννοιών Λιτής Παραγωγής σε Περιβάλλον Υπηρεσιών)

  C.V. ( Greek Version English Version)
The fierce competition among service providers and the on-going growth in demand for services, due to demographic changes and advancements in technology, makes the need for improving the productivity in services more relevant than ever before. Traditionally, service companies have been looking at their manufacturing counterparts for sources of inspiration to improve operations. As such, the undisputed success of the Toyota Motor Company has led academic researchers and business practitioners to study the Toyota Production System and the associated movement of Lean Manufacturing in an effort to decode it and transfer its concepts, strategies and methods to different environments. Today, almost twenty years after the introduction of the term Lean Service by Bowen and Youngdahl (1998), there are still questions regarding its applicability. In this dissertation we shed light in aspects of the following research question: to what extent some important LM concepts can be adopted and adapted in service environments? 
To do so, we first examine the differences between manufacturing and services and the underlying challenges. Subsequently, we review the historical evolution of lean manufacturing its key components, impact and the aspects that have made this approach revolutionary. Finally, we critically review three distinct streams of lean in services. In particular, we review a) the relevance, from the conceptual standpoint, of the lean concepts in services (applicability), b) the lean practices that have been implemented in various service sectors and functions (transferability), and c) the conditions to continuously improve lean practices in service organizations (sustainability). Utilizing the above analysis, we identify ten gaps that are deemed pivotal for generalizing lean in services and focus on four of them. In particular, we clarify the essence and limitations of lean in services, we provide a universal framework for classifying services, and examine the applicability of two of the most well-known lean concepts (quality at the source and cellular work structure) in a highly complex service environment.
Overall, our findings indicate that these two concepts are relevant for services under certain conditions. In particular, we have developed simulation models in financial services and used them to test these concepts under various conditions. The insights gained from the current research are relevant to other information and people-intensive service environments, in which the main objects of transformation are information, customers and employees. The results suggest that by addressing quality issues at source and by using a cellular arrangement in a service setting may have significant positive effects on system performance, if some conditions apply. The results also show that service managers in addition to the challenges faced in manufacturing (e.g. trade-offs between different layouts), they have to address unique challenges driven primarily by customers participating in service production and the propensity of knowledge-intensive employees to prefer professional autonomy. From the universal transferability standpoint, we conclude that while it makes sense for service organization to adopt essential principles and elements of lean, they will have to ultimately adapt and evolve them in practices and new models better suited to their unique environment and challenges. To do so and continuously improve, it is essential for service organizations to develop the dynamic capabilities of identifying the real causes of problems, sensing signals of weak performance and responding rapidly to changes in the environment.