Implementing Lean Production - How details of the implementation influence the psychosocial work environment of production workers

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: The background of the thesis is the debate concerning the work environmental implications of lean production. It has been claimed that lean leads to a detrimental work environment. Others have claimed that lean constitutes means for a better working life. Previous research has described several outcomes on the work environment and well-being but has to a limited extent achieved to describe and quantify how these outcomes are conditioned to certain details of the implementation. The aim of the research in this thesis was to describe how different lean implementation details contribute to changes in the work environment of production workers. The work described in the thesis could be considered as having two parts. Part one concerns how the implementation of lean production could be assessed. The main contribution of this part to the research aim was the development of a questionnaire to be used in the assessment of how the lean concepts standardisation and continuous improvement have been implemented. This questionnaire was used in part two when the links from standardisation and continuous improvement to three different factors of the psychosocial work environment was empirically researched. The work environment factors in the study were: – Psychological demands from work – Skill discretion – Authority over decision The results of the empirical study showed that the psychological demands perceived by the production workers increased with an increasing amount of standardization but the increase associated with implementation of continuous improvement was next to negligible. The results also showed that the psychological demands decreased when the standards were perceived as having good quality. Influence on standards was associated with experiences of skill discretion as were responsibility for continuous improvement and commitment to continuous improvement. Contrary to common anticipation, standardization and continuous improvement were not linked to authority over decision in any way. The empirical results show that to achieve a lean implementation that allows operational efficiency without degradation of the work environment focus on the details of the implementation is required. This implies that organisations must invest substantial effort into creating processes that ensure that work standards are up to date at all times. In these processes participation of production workers must be an essential part as influence on standards provides an opportunity to exert skill discretion.

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