Exploring the application of lean manufacturing best practices in the remanufacturing context

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Continued strains on the planet's resources, limited sites for product disposal and the introduction of new environmental legislation have resulted in a growing interest in material and product recovery options. The remanufacturing process is rated as one of the most promising and cost-effective options which can bring back end-of-life products to an as-good-as-new condition in terms of quality, performance, and warranty (Ijomah et al., 2007). However, the process is more complex than traditional manufacturing and researchers have identified several difficulties that make process planning and control (PPC) more difficult in remanufacturing environments.For example, the degree of automation is usually lower and consequently, the amount of manual work is higher. Moreover remanufacturing facilities struggle not only with relatively high inventories of cores and finished product but also with inventories in between processes. Such issues impact negatively on remanufacturing performance measures like lead-time and costs. A system that will help to reduce cost, improve productivity and gain a competitive advantage is required. Previous research has confirmed that the combination of remanufacturing with lean manufacturing best practices appears to offer a good opportunity to increase process efficiencies within this type of industry.Since Lean remanufacturing is still a novel field and there is a paucity of data and publications multiple case studies are used to gain insight into industrial activities and the performance of remanufacturing operations. Three case companies (two British and one Polish) operating within the remanufacturing industry were investigated. The study focuses on the automotive industry, which often demonstrates a greater understanding of lean thinking and practice, giving the opportunity to collect sufficient information to progress the research.A key contribution of this research is the identification of lean practices that help manage the complexity in the remanufacturing processes thus improving general remanufacturing. This study confirmed that lean practices such as standardisation, Kanban, Cross-functional workforce, production analysis board, 5S, visual management, cellular manufacturing and TPM help manage the negative effect of the inherent complexities of the remanufacturing process. An Opportunities Matrix has been developed so that the findings can be more easily used by industry. Moreover, factors that limit the application of Lean practices within remanufacturing were also discussed.This research confirmed that the complexities of the remanufacturing process such as stochastic routings for material for remanufacturing operations, uncertainty in materials recovered from returned items, highly variable processing time and the complication of material matching restrictions limit the application of FIFO, standardised work instructions, Kanban, cellular manufacturing. A Threats Matrix has also been developed to visualise the research findings. Both academic and industry benefit from this research. Remanufacturing companies can use this study to choose suitable lean practices for addressing challenges that are facing. Further research should be focused on the particular lean tools that are identified in this research as difficult or impossible to implement in remanufacturing.
Date of Award28 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorWinifred Ijomah (Supervisor) & Jonathan Corney (Supervisor)

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