Incorporation Of Sustainability In OM Essay


Discuss about the Incorporation of Sustainability in Operation Management.



Sustainable Operation Management involves the efficient management of resources during the OM process (Zahir, 2014). This is the use of environment friendly approaches in all processes. The supply chains, procurement, logistics and other stages of operation require strategies that deal with environmental concerns such as reductions in the carbon factor. OM is a continuous process and the increasing consumer demands often lead to the realization that natural resources in the world have limitations. If every operation uses these resources on a daily basis, it threatens their existence. Further studies reveal that operations, which have an effective plan, strategize using the most competent models of operations. One of these strategies is the lean approach, which involves saving money, resources, and time by reducing the processes (Douflou, et al., 2012). The popularity of this approach has led to its use in the manufacturing sector and service industries. It has principles which emphasis on a continuous process. The growth of OM as a practice continues to evolve over time capturing more elements. The quest to understand OM has led to different models of sustainable performance. This essay tries to understand the connection between sustainability and the lean principles using joint benefits (Rich & Piercy, 2014, p. 304)

Key Questions of the Article

The article agrees that there is a continuous change in the lean and sustainability approaches. It touches on previous research into the two highlighting a common relationship. With specific reference to the connection between the lean supply chain and sustainability, the article agrees that the two concepts support environmental effect issues. It goes further to discuss the importance of sustainability in lean processes in monitoring supplies creating transparency, implementation strategies, and work force or community relations. The article raises questions of how the terms relate with each other, how to integrate them for mutual gain and economic benefits. It looks at the “green” aspects of the lean (Rich & Piercy, 2014, p. 282) while giving suggestions of its improvement.

Most Important Aspect of the article

The research article delves into the concept of OM using the lean theory and sustainability. The discussion breaks down the concepts of cost effectiveness and sustainability by identifying its common elements. In a business environment where innovation and market competition rule, organizations incorporate different elements in OM in order to gain best practices. Hassini & Surti (2012) agree that metric measurment of Operations provides definitive factors by which theorists can use to define the most effective method. There are theories focusing on industry strategies while others target specific decisions made by organizations. Stakeholders in a supply chain may adopt a unified approach in order to reduce on costs and time. In some cases, customer satisfaction and value addition drive the approach taken. The article brings ways for targeting specific processes through life cycles that analyze gaps in each section. The popularity of the lean principles in the supply chain confirms the connection between sustainability and the lean process because both have similar elements (Govindan, et al., 2017). The key concepts in this analysis are value, operation capabilities, cost, timelines, and management of resources. It defines the process for value creation, forecasting, and inventory using the most effective logistics.

Collier & Evans (2014, p. 1) define OM as a scientific and artistic approach for the successful delivery of products and services. This supports the article idea of incorporating sustainability without strategy. The optimization of resources defines the performance of an undertaking. It is possible to determine whether a process achieved its goals by measuring the economies of scale. Modern operating systems comprise of technology systems for important elements such as quality, supply chain, and process selection. The article suggest the lean approach, which has a definition for value, waste management and efficiency. Therefore, it is a strategy in itself. The article defines the lean ideology as the use of less in doing more. It translates this to sustainability within the operations (Rich & Piercy, 2014, p. 282). Developing management operations using strategies such as the lean systems reduces constraint within the logistics, operations and customer levels. The supply and demand parameters tend to influence production but without proper capacity and facilities or an appropriate framework, this becomes a challenge. The lean principles explain the emergence of China as an economic giant because of its adoption in the business and manufacturing industries (Mckinsey, 2016).

Main Inferences and concepts

The reasons behind the growth of sustainable production is within the performance metrics. Stakeholders in the business environment recognize its impact across all processes (Esty & Winson, 2012, p. 65). The article describes the best approach to the utilization of resources ensures that the economic factors of production do not exhaust the inputs. In logistics, industries and organizations that have a high competitive edge require effectiveness in the management of inventory, supply chains, and safety (Moledena, 2011). The paper looks at performance as an environmental factor and a workplace issues that bring out improvement activities. These are community engagement, information systems integration, changes in strategy, reduction and policy deployment (Rich & Piercy, 2014, p. 298). From these factors, only the community and reduction aspects may appear in sustainability. However, the connection between organizational functions makes operations, marketing and financial issues connected. The lean process addresses money issues, wastage in production, inefficient movements, defects, and over processing of goods or waiting in services. However, it does not touch on quality, which is an important part of customer satisfaction. Performance often translates to tangible and perceived benefits. Among these are price reduction, product benefits and customer experience. In a value chain analysis, the value creation may occur within the preproduction as well as the postproduction process.

Sustainability and lean may have mutual benefits in managerial strategies but there are challenges its application in certain industries (Rich & Piercy, 2014). As an ethical principle, sustainability requires commitment and vision in order to succeed. Operation Management functions involve forecasting, supply management, facility design, technology choice, quality management and purchasing. Sustainability affects all these areas but may fail if stakeholders fail to take an initiative. The article points to the benefits of lean in ensuring that there are returns in form of savings and higher output. Performance needs a standard measure which sustainability does not define in totality. The concept of value relates to the customer benefits and lean may improve the quality through technological advancements. Some customers may not feel the impact of a sustainability plan by an organization. However, the lean principles may translate value through cost reduction as seen in the Toyota production and innovation example (Mesaharu, et al., 2013). This makes a difference between a supply chain process and value chain process. Competent organization decentralize value chains across the processes and the lean process helps to facilitate its creation. This is through minimal costs for improved profits and customer benefits. Sustainability comes in to add the human value or welfare to the process.


Although Rich & Piercy ( 2014, p. 306) insist on mutual compatibility between lean and sustainability, lean is not always a“green” approach. Industries in the oil and plastic manufacturing may use the lean approach of using less yet its outcome in gas emissions and release of products in the enviornment is destructive to the environment. The use of inputs verses outputs to measure OM factors differentiates these elements. Besides, some operations such as the transport industry and multinational operations are complex hence require a multifaceted approach. In this case, some stakeholders or departments may succeed with the lean process while others require maximum inputs. Future challenges caused by competitiveness in the manufacturing sector highlight challenges in the implementation of change (Pons & Pearce, 2013). When organizations innovate, new practices, structures, tools and techniques come into play. This process is expensive because it might lead to the costly replacements. The article agrees that the application of the lean process and sustainability is effective in manufacturing. However, industries like technology may face challenges using them. Organizations keep changing the leadership and culture in order to provide support for sustainable approaches. Lean principles are effective in the management of tangible products but it has limits in leadership and employee strategies.

The article leaves out the Six Sigma is a Total Quality approach, which compliments the lean process (Pacheco, et al., 2015). It feels the gap left by lean in the improvement of products through value creation. It provides the quality standards for classifying processes based on the level of achievement of perfection. The other method left out in the total elimination of wastes is The Just in Time approach. This creates specific approaches to inventory for the highest reduction in costs (Nagano, et al., 2015). All these processes target sustainability and may not fully fulfil their potential independently. An integrative approach is more appropriate because of growing industry and customer needs (Leng & Jiang, 2017). JIT, Six Sigma and Lean have the same purpose- to reduce waste and provide the best value for customer satisfaction. They advocate for sustainability, which is about the human factor that involves production with a human factor. It involves the intangible element such as the customer benefit package (CBP) while lean is useful in both products and service industries. In contemporary organizations, there are numerous challenges. These include technology changes, management of globalizations and the dynamic consumer behavior. Strategic MO is about optimization of resources for the most convenient outcome.

Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, Sustainability and Lean are both OM concepts. The former is a value principle, which has numerous connotations. On the other hand, Lean is a value strategy for creating efficient OM and it is restricted to reduction of wastes and costs. Despite the difference in conceptualization, Rich & Piercy (2014) agree that the two mutually support each other. However, it is clear that quality management in OM is difficult to address using simple approaches. The complex nature of organizations, value chains and stakeholder relationships raises doubts about the ability of the tow in ensuring total quality in an operation. Modern OM is about creating a competitive edge in a centralized or decentralized system. This calls for a grasp on customer needs, expectations and standards of value. In order to achieve this, lean helps to leverage the capabilities of an organization. The customer expects value, quality, timely products or services, innovativeness and flexibility. Sustainability justifies the means of the OM plan. It helps to maintain the framework for processes and non-processes. Therefore, sustainability and lean relate with each other through the same dimension but there is an overlap and difference in outcomes. Used as performance metrics, the two have environmental and economic benefits for different OM industries.

From the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of lean and sustainability, it is clear that the global organizations are changing. Putting up with technology changes means changes in OM approaches. Operations today depend on hard and soft technologies to improve processes. The role of artificial intelligence gives an assurance of quality and performance. For example, the computer integrated manufacturing systems (CIMS) provides an automated approach to production activities for high performance. Robotic processes, business analytics and Enterprise Resource Planning are some of the modern tools for OM. These have immense benefits such as lowered costs, market segmentation, customer satisfaction, environmental monitoring systems and supply chain management. Some of these tools and devices may be expensive installations in an OM. However, they continue to change OM practices and theories. As a recommendation, technology decisions or scalability has to incorporate technology solutions (Nagano, et al., 2015). Technology tools incorporate the lean principles, sustainability and other approaches in the design, process selection, facility and supply chain management. This maximizes on the potential of an organization in OM. What’s more, technology solutions have customized and integrated applications for specific and collective processes. Stakeholders in competent organizations have already adopted the new framework of OM. This is bound to change because technology is a continuous process hence contemporary OM is not static.


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