Improving quality and productivity through lean manufacturing at an automotive manufacturing organisation in Durban
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The manufacturing sector, considered to be an important industry in any country, is often plagued with a significant degree of competition due to global marketing. In order to cope with this challenge, organisations attempt to improve their manufacturing operations by using different tools and techniques to reduce costs while remaining profitable. This study investigated the existing lean production system of an automotive manufacturing organisation in Durban. The objective of the study was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current lean manufacturing process in an attempt to improve quality and productivity. An empirical study was conducted, using a survey questionnaire with an assessment score ranking to gather and evaluate employees’ responses pertaining to lean application in the production environment. The quantitative method of research was adopted. The results of the study showed evidence of misalignment and inconsistencies for lean adoption in the organisation. There were significant relationships established between departments and job positions. The analysis demonstrated that operators within production showed the highest sentiment of disagreement for certain lean principles. The validity of the operators’ responses was significant as operators are the frontline of all processes and were in the best position to rank the extent of lean adoption. Several important findings on the implications of lean activities that affect manufacturing performance were revealed. The study concluded that a significant gap exists between the actual adoption of lean principles on the shop floor to those that are documented. It is recommended that organisations develop structured follow up procedures in order to have more control of the production system and thus ensure sustainability. Future research should focus at incorporating better and more efficient lean assessment tools to identify gaps in the production system and to replicate this study to track other South African organisations that claim to manufacture lean.