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Topic Title: Advice for a Master thesis topic
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Created On: 04/21/2015 06:36 AM
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04/21/2015 10:00 PM
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Vivek Poonilavu


I am a Master's degree student and currently I am preparing to do my Master thesis. I am interested in LEAN in the manufacturing sector. LEAN, being a philosophy and adaptable to any field, I am having slight difficulty in finding a specific topic, on which I can base my thesis research.

Could anyone advise me on finding a suitable topic for my thesis?

Thanks in advance,
04/30/2015 06:41 AM
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Richard McDole


A lot depends on the field of study you are pursuing your Master's degree in, but one of the areas I end up having a lot of discussion on is the emphasis of Lean tools over Lean philosophy. We have a tendency to become fixated on the tools and their use and forget to ensure that our efforts and activities are being guided by Lean principles. Unfortunately I see a lot of this among Lean practitioners.
04/30/2015 06:41 AM
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alessandro Piccolo

Hi Vivek,
I'm doing my master thesis on LEAN too.
I strongly suggest to do a practical case study for your thesis, I'm performing a value stream analysis at a famous burger chain. Any company would welcome you for this kind of projects.
05/04/2015 11:07 AM
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Ken Hunt

I completely agree with Rick. What he is talking about is Activity Centered Programs vs. Results Driven Programs. You need a target condition(s) to drive improvement.

You can't just roll out tools with the expectation that improvements will happen, but rather you need to set a direction via giving the team some expectations in the form of an outcome.
05/04/2015 11:35 AM
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Owen Berkeley-Hill

You might want to ask the question why this body of knowledge we call Lean is not the bedrock of the MBA degree. At best it is taught as part of something called Operations and is quickly forgotten. Having brought Lean to our attention a quarter of a century ago, why has academia more or less abandoned it?

I suspect this might be tough with a lot grumpy academics asking you to think of something else. If Lean is a philosophy, as many have suggested, then why is it not taught in the right way to anyone who has aspirations of being in charge of others?
05/04/2015 11:35 AM
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Jeff Heyl


I concur with Alessandro, for a masters thesis practical is the way to go. I've had several students successfully navigate this path. Rick I totally agree with the importance of your suggested topic, I'm just not sure that's a masters level project. It feels more like a PhD to me.

And Alessandro, if your thesis, when complete, can be shared, I would appreciate a copy. It sounds like it could have real value for both research and teaching. jeff.heyl@lincoln.ac.nz

Thank you,
05/05/2015 06:30 AM
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Sam Tomas

Vivek, people try to apply Lean without really explaining what their definition of Lean is and what they hope to accomplish by using it. I suggest you first describe what it is a company is attempting to do from a strategic 3-5 year planning point of view and then, how Lean might be applied to achieve those company's goals and objectives, You should indicate what your definition of Lean is relative to achieving the goals and objectives. Here is one approach to strategic planning:

First, perform a yearly business analysis:
? 1. Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, and a postmortem on last year's analysis.
? Review political, social, legislative, economic, technological, and environmental changes that have occured and are forecased to occur..
? 2. Determines company's current competitive position and growth potentials in selected markets both old and new.

Second, select both company survival and new performance goals and objectives:
? 1. Select essential survival goals such as correcting company weaknesses or countering threats.
? 2. Set specific performance goals such as improved company growth rate in terms of profitability or earnings.
? Some of these may be contingent upon meeting survival goals.

Third, assuming growth is the main company goal, decide what must be done to grow.
? 1. Sell more existing and more enhanced products to current customers.
? 2. Acquire new customers.
? 3. Develop new products to meet existing and new customer expectations.
? 4. Plan how to compete more effectively by developing sustaining competitive advantages with the company's products.

Fourth, develop strategies for growth.
? 1. Understand customers' needs, wants, desires, demands, requirements and expectations.
? 2. Evaluate competitor's products in terms of how well they are satisfying competitor's customers. What are their competitive advantages?
? 3. Determine what changes to existing products and what new products will be required to satisfy existing and new customers.
? 4. Determine which improvements in company processes should be made to improve process efficiencies, such as in manufacturing.
? 5. Emphasize agility and flexibility in company operations, especially manufacturing.

Fifth, implement the strategies.
? 1. Set specific objectives for improving the company's products in terms of features, performance, lower costs, improved quality, etc.
? 2. Set time, cost, and quality improvement objectives for improving efficiencies of those company processes that relate to providing total customer satisfaction.
? 3. Set objectives for improving the company's manufactring agility and flexibility capabilities.
? 4. Introduce Lean as appropriate. Provide training as necessary on the use of Lean and Six Sigma Tools to identify process variabilities and inefficiencies and to develop solutions to the achievement of the selected goals and objectives. If Lean and Six Sigma tools are to be used for improvements, develop a company statement explaining what the company's definitions of Lean and Six Sigma is and the benefits the company is expecting from their application. Broadcast the statement to all employees.

Sam Tomas