Lean & Six Sigma initiatives in the food industry
Costa, Luana Bonome Message
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Food industry is an important sector that generates significant economic benefits. However, it is an industry that faces many challenges, due to the demanding market that requires a wide range of products, with short delivery times, frequent deliveries, and with price reductions. In view of this scenario, Continuous Improvement (CI) initiatives could assist this sector to deal with its challenges and to survive in the global market. Two widely used and stand as the best CI initiatives are Lean and Six Sigma, that can be integrated in a hybrid approach, Lean Six Sigma, joining their strengths. To understand the relevance of adoption of these initiatives in the food industry context, this research firstly performed a systematic literature review, which found a low amount of papers published, late adoption of the initiatives in the sector, and their low use, indicating the sector lacks familiarity with the subject. In spite of that, some implementation cases showed the sector can benefit with their implementation. Several improvements in food industry’s performance can be obtained with their adoption, most of them related to cost reduction. Moreover, it was found that the main barriers to their use are strongly related to sector characteristics and managerial factors. Therefore, a survey was performed to better evaluate the potential for food industry to adopt Lean Six Sigma practices. First, a new multi-item measurement scales reflecting the multidimensional construct, Lean Six Sigma, in the food industry sector, was developed. A two-stage approach was used to ensure validity and reliability of the measurement items and scales. The scales were developed based on an initial set of 13 Lean and Six Sigma constructs and 73 items. They were purified and refined through four rounds of an item-sorting exercise and a prestest conducted using a questionnaire sent via web to fifty respondents (American Food and Beverage sector) from the SurveyMonkey Audience. Then, a large sample of 229 Brazilian and American food industries was used in order to confirm reliability and validity of Lean Six Sigma multi-item scales. The result was 11 constructs and 45 items to measure the adoption of Lean Six Sigma practices in the food sector. Then, a survey was conducted with 145 factories from Brazil and the United States. The findings showed a fragmented use of Lean Six Sigma practices; low adoption of practices related to pull, statistical process control and six sigma role structure; the effect of sector’s characteristics to a certain extent in the degree of adoption of Lean Six Sigma practices; and the positive effect of their adoption in the food industry’s performance, moderated by their level of experience. So, there is a great potential for the sector to adopt Lean Six Sigma practices; there are opportunities to increase the level of adoption of some practices low explored; expand the level of experience and the maturity of the sector in this field, and consequently, obtain better results with their adoption.
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