The transfer process of lean practices in multi-plant companies

Pamela Danese, Pietro Romano*, Stefania Boscari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to deal with the transfer of lean practices between different units in multi-plant organizations with different levels of adoption of lean practices. It investigates how certain influential contextual variables – i.e. lean standards development, lean transfer team composition, source characteristics, recipient national environment and corporate lean programme deployment – can influence stickiness in the different phases of lean transfer process.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper opted for the multiple-case study method and examines six lean transfer projects at a dyadic level, that is, between a source and a recipient unit. The authors focussed on companies with headquarters in Europe with an attested experience in lean and which had recently and successfully transferred lean to subsidiaries in the USA and China.

Findings – The paper provides empirical insights about how stickiness in lean transfer projects changes during the initiation, implementation/ramp-up and integration phases. It identifies three lean transfer approaches (local, global, global and shared) and provides a set of propositions that explains how
sociocultural traits of recipient environment (China vs USA) and lean transfer approach affect stickiness in each phase.

Originality/value – Literature on stickiness in lean transfer is at an early stage and very fragmented. Unlike previous contributions in the field, this paper provides an interpretation of the dynamics of stickiness in lean transfer at a micro-level (i.e. for each single phase of the lean transfer process). In addition, it develops a fuller understanding of the influence of context on lean transfer by adopting a configurational view, i.e. studying the joint effect of contextual variables on stickiness, which is a novelty in the lean transfer literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-488
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Lean
  • Case Study
  • Lean transfer
  • Multi-plant improvement

Cite this