Assessing to what extent smart manufacturing builds on lean principles

Jos A.C. Bokhorst*, Wilfred Knol, Jannes Slomp, Thomas Bortolotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
155 Downloads (Pure)


This study explores to what extent the adoption and performance of smart manufacturing technologies builds on the adoption of lean principles. Primary explorative survey data on the level of adoption of smart manufacturing technologies and lean principles and various operational performance outcomes were collected from a set of Dutch manufacturers and analysed using Cluster Analysis, ANOVA, and Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA). The Cluster Analysis shows that while lean is also applied without smart (“lean-only” companies), smart technologies are mostly applied in conjunction with lean (“lean and smart” companies), suggesting that the presence of lean principles is necessary for smart implementation. A third group of companies shows a low use of lean and smart (“non-adopters”). The NCAs further specify the extent of this necessity by showing that all individual smart manufacturing technologies used in our construct require presence of lean principles, with MES systems having the strongest dependency. Performance wise, lean-only and lean and smart companies have comparable superior performance compared to non-adopters when considering an aggregate operational performance measure using the dimensions of quality, delivery, flexibility and cost. When analysed separately, the aggregate level results remain true for quality and delivery performance. However, for flexibility, the superiority of lean-only companies is more apparent, while for cost, lean and smart companies are superior. This shows that implementing smart requires lean, but lean may suffice depending on the specific performance objectives strived for.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108599
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Production Economics
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2022


  • Industry 4.0
  • Lean principles
  • Necessary condition analysis
  • Operational performance
  • Smart manufacturing

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