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Paper info: Lean processes across firm boundary: developing suppliers towards lean management


Lean processes across firm boundary: developing suppliers towards lean management


Leandro D. B. dos Santos,
Elsebeth Holmen
Norwegian School of Information Technology
Elsebeth Holmen and
Ann-Charlott Pedersen
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Ann-Charlott Pedersen

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 34th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2018.


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The industrial marketing and purchase group (IMP) focuses on business relationships develop in a network context. Interacting in those business networks, there are different types of players, and suppliers play a significantly role in firms performance. Contributions within and outside IMP tradition studied how a buying firms can manage and develop its most important suppliers Another interest field for researches and practitioners is Lean management, with roots in the Toyota production system. While the initial focus of Lean is on internal operational efficiency, companies that only exploit it internally are missing external opportunities. The efficient Lean implementation must include the supply base. However, applying Lean principles in the supply base is a complex task, with implications to the inter-firm and network management. This study investigates how the IMP literature can add to our understanding of Lean management beyond company`s boarders, or Lean supply (LS), by applying supply management in networks concepts to Lean supply. LS features are analyzed within the core concept of IMP; resource ties, actor bonds, and activity links, or ARA model. Six issues emerge from this analysis and the ones appearing at the same ARA elements are grouped as strategical relational (relationship focus), resource (material flow, local inventories, and process improvement) and the analysis of the relationship dynamic (atmosphere and view on supply change). Those are proposed as the features of the LS network view. The implications for Lean supply Network are high inter-firm activities management, crucial interdependencies within material flow, and need of a structure for capability transfers and interaction. Pertinent to the relationship dynamic issue, the implication is transparency, information flow, and integration as much as less change in the supply base. All the previous implications confirm the requirement of sophisticated supply management on the strategical relational theme.