Employees involvement and “observation”: a Lean tools for improving the effectiveness of Continuous Improvement Program in an auto-parts firm of Guanajuato, Mexico

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Puebla (2016)


Continuous improvement, Employee involvement, Lean production system, Observation


The automotive industry recognizes Lean Production System as an effective methodology to promote incremental innovations that achieve goals such as, higher productivity, lower costs, etc. This industry has a long trajectory in the implementation of mechanisms to foster the quality and in activities that involve employees.

The purpose of this paper is twofold. The first one is to analyze the role played by the blue-collar workers in the successful implementation of the Continuous Improvement Program; and the second one is to examine the importance of “observation” as a Lean tool. The study also aims to analyze the influence of Toyota in the implementation of suppliers’ quality management systems.

This research draws from a case study of an auto-parts American plant located in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. The plant supplies automotive leather interior trim products. Field research was carried out in two moments: from august to september of 2012, and in June of 2015, through in-depth interviews applied to blue-collar workers, frontline-level managers, middle-level managers as well as top-level  managers.

The main findings of the research are: a) the participation of the employees is crucial for the implementation of the Continuous Improvement Program, b) a robust “observation” allows employees to propose and implement incremental innovations in their job areas, these innovations allow the firm to increase productivity, reduce costs, reduce over processing, among others; c) the established relationship with Toyota has allowed the firm to improve its organizational capabilities.

The paper is organized as follows. A global and brief explanation about the importance of the automotive industry in Guanajuato is carried out in the first section. In the second section, a literature review regarding continuous improvement, lean manufacturing and employee participation is provided. Methodological aspects are presented in section 3. Empirical results are presented and discussed in section 4. Main findings, research limitations and new research streams are summarized in the conclusions section.


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