Exploring the application of lean best practices in remanufacturing : empirical insights into the benefits and barriers

Pawlik, Elzbieta and Ijomah, Winifred and Corney, Jonathan and Powell, Daryl (2022) Exploring the application of lean best practices in remanufacturing : empirical insights into the benefits and barriers. Sustainability, 14 (1). 149. ISSN 2071-1050 (https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010149)

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Remanufacturing processes have been widely identified as being important elements of a sustainable economy. However, the commercial viability of this product recovery route is significantly influenced by several operational challenges that are different from those that occur in conventional manufacturing. One of the most widely used systematic process improvement methods in conventional manufacturing is lean production, which seeks to minimize all forms of waste throughout an operation. As the academic study of lean best practices in remanufacturing processes is relatively new, there is a lack of knowledge regarding implementation and impact. As such, this paper presents multiple case studies investigating the application of lean methods in industrial remanufacturing operations. These studies focus on the automotive industry, where both conventional and remanufacturing operations have been the leading adopters of lean thinking and practice. The results of the investigation identify specific lean methods that help manage the inherent complexity of the remanufacturing processes, and consequently improve the overall productivity of the process. Similarly, factors that limit the application of lean practices within remanufacturing are also identified and discussed. Matrices for opportunities and threats are developed to enable the simple adoption of these findings. Overall, the research provides a more holistic understanding of the application of lean within a remanufacturing environment, with benefits for both academia and industry.