Digital technologies as lean augmentation: A preliminary study of Japanese automotive manufacturers

Publication Type:

Journal Article


International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, Volume 21, Number 3, p.228-249 (2021)



Automobile manufacture, Automotive manufacturers, Digital technologies, digital transformation, Lean principles, lean production, Lean production system, Organisational, Potential risks, Production System


This paper explores how Japanese automotive manufacturers, whose production systems are characterised by the lean principle, address digital transformation. We conducted case studies of seven Japanese car makers and suppliers to investigate the interplay between lean production and digitalisation. We found that the firms selectively adopted digital technologies to enhance the existing lean production system. We labelled this type of digitalisation 'lean augmentation'. Further, we developed theoretical hypotheses regarding the potential of digitalisation to limit kaizen, the roles of human involvement and organisational coordination in digitalised manufacturing, and the potential risk of lean augmentation being caught by what we term the 'lean trap'. Copyright © 2021 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

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