Industry 4.0 technologies as enablers of lean and agile supply chain strategies: an exploratory investigation

Ibrahim Oluwole Raji, Eduard Shevtshenko, Tommaso Rossi, Fernanda Strozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Lean and agile are essential supply chain management (SCM) strategies that enhance companies' performance. Previous studies have reported the capabilities of different SCM strategies to enhance performance; however, the emergence of Industry 4.0 technologies has bred focus on the possibility of attaining more levels of operational performance. Despite being demonstrated helpful at enabling supply chain (SC) strategies, the literature linking Industry 4.0 with SCM strategies is still in its infancy. Thus, this work investigates the degree to which “Industry 4.0 technologies” enable the implementation of lean and agile practices and subsequently assesses the potential performance implications of integrating Industry 4.0 technologies with the SC operations. Design/methodology/approach: The work employs an exploratory case study approach using empirical data from selected organisations drawn from an Estonian manufacturing cluster and digital solution providing companies. The data collected via interviews were used to assign numerical scores and subsequently aggregated across the five cases for the research variables of interest. The work is crowned with a model grounded on the cross-case analysis to depict which technologies impact each of the lean and agile practices. Findings: The analysis enabled comprehension of the potential impact and level of importance of the main Industry 4.0 technologies on lean and agile practices and ultimately the potential implication on performance. The findings revealed that the technologies have a high impact on the practices. Although the impacts are of varying degrees, the analysis provides means to identify the technologies with the most significant impact on lean and agile SCM and the sets of practices with the greatest likelihood of being enabled by various digital technologies. Practical implications: The work presents various lean and agile practices that practitioners can deploy to operations, alongside the technologies that could support the implementation of the practices towards achieving the various performance measures. Also, it provides some guides for the digital solution providing companies towards understanding the SCM practices that can be improved upon by various digital technologies. This enables them to have more saleable proposals for intending companies who might be sceptical about transiting into the digital operation phase. Originality/value: This is the first attempt to empirically address the connection between Industry 4.0 technologies and the integrated lean and agile strategies despite literature backing of the complementary nature of the two SCM strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1150-1189
Number of pages40
JournalInternational Journal of Logistics Management
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agile
  • Digital technologies
  • Empirical study
  • Industry 4.0
  • Lean
  • Supply chain management

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