Identifying the characteristics for achieving sustainable manufacturing companies
Thomas, Andrew J.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify the qualitative characteristics that can make manufacturing small to medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) more robust and hence become economically sustainable in this globally competitive environment. The characteristics identified will form the foundations for defining a new manufacturing management perspective to both academics and industrialists. Design/methodology/approach – Through a comprehensive case study approach the authors initially analyse the developmental cycle of the subject company and then identify the key characteristics which enabled the company to become economically sustainable and survive in the changing environment in which it operates. The paper opens with a brief academic analysis of sustainability literature available, before developing the case study. Findings – Traditional business improvement strategies, such as Lean and Agility, which many companies initially follow in an attempt to become more robust and economically stable, allow companies to deliver bottom‐line savings in production terms although their effectiveness depends upon the volume and demand profile of their products. Through the case study outlined in this paper however, a combined approach towards the application of Lean is outlined as a primary means of reducing operating costs alongside the simultaneous implementation of product innovation strategies which allows the company to break into new markets as a means to achieving long‐term economic sustainability and making it more robust to market changes. The development of a business within a business is described as an effective mechanism towards achieving business sustainability. Research limitations/implications – The paper proposes a novel approach to achieving economic sustainability within a business and can be of benefit to the wider industrial and academic community. The development of work around a single company has its obvious limitations and it is crucial that further work, with a range of companies in the area of business sustainability, is key to developing a comprehensive set of sustainability characteristics. Practical implications – The paper proposes a set of qualitative characteristics for the development of an economically sustainable manufacturing company. The development of a comprehensive case study with a subject company also directs and enables other companies of similar size and style to apply a similar approach and to achieve economic sustainability in an efficient and effective manner, through reducing production costs, minimising company failure and increasing business efficiency and effectiveness. Originality/value – The development of a set of sustainability characteristics aimed at tackling directly the issues of economic sustainability is proposed and is considered by the authors as one of a kind. The case study approach also provides for a framework towards the implementation of sustainable manufacturing operations within SMEs.
Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management
Thomas, A., Francis, M., John, E. and Davies, A. (2012) "Identifying the characteristics for achieving sustainable manufacturing companies" Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 23 (4), 426-440
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