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Merchandising has seen tremendous changes over the last fifty years. “Mom and pop grocery stores” have given way to large retail and then wholesale distributors – the “big box” stores – and this has been followed by the development of on-line giants like Amazon.com that control almost 40 percent of online purchases (Mitchell and Lavecchia 2016). This was accompanied by the relatively high-priced Seven-Eleven convenience stores, and then by low-priced T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Family Dollar, and Dollar General stores that buy up overstocks, out of season, or seconds items to sell at lower prices. Even the once dominant Sears Corporation has had difficulty negotiating these changes.
This handbook focuses on two sides of the lean production debate that rarely interact. On the one hand, management and industrial engineering scholars have presented a positive view of lean production as the epitome of efficiency and quality. On the other hand, sociology, industrial relations, and labor relations scholars focus on work speedups, management by stress, trade union positions, and self-exploitation in lean teams. The editors of this volume understand the merits of both views and present them accordingly, bridging the gaps among five disciplines and presenting the best of each perspective. Chapters by internationally acclaimed authors examine the positive, negative and neutral possible effects of lean, providing a global view of lean production while adjusting lean to the cultural and political contexts of different nation-states. As the first multi-lens view of lean production from academic and consultant perspectives, this volume charts a way forward in the world of work and management in our global economy.
The social sciences perspective on lean production is much less unified than the previous two areas of management and industrial engineering. Some studies of the impact of lean production on the workforce cover positive aspects such as teamwork, job rotation, job enrichment, and job satisfaction. Other studies examine the negative aspects such as work intensification, long and unannounced overtime, and the extensive use of temporary workers. Yet another group studies the diffusion of lean production, and there are alternative models like socio-technical theory and diversified quality production. As a result, this chapter focuses on six approaches to lean: (1) sociological studies of lean production; (2) socio-technical theory as a social psychological approach to lean and teamwork; (3) the diffusion of lean production; (4) critical social science and flexible accumulation; (5) the productive models approach; and (6) diversified quality production. The social sciences are more divided about the benefits and costs of lean production, so we start with the three positive views and follow with the three critical approaches.
The Cambridge International Handbook of Lean Production provides an overall argument that lean systems are the dominant division of labor in the world, which are spreading in diverse ways to the service industries and around the world. Whether you think lean is great or not, it is the overwhelming influence on the world-wide division of labor. Further, this Handbook examines the many sides of the lean production debate that rarely interact. One side sees efficiency and quality as paramount, and the other side sees the protection of workers as key. Consequently, this Handbook focuses on three major parts:
The result is an international Handbook that is a comprehensive interdisciplinary examination of the future of the world of work and management in our global economy.