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Conceptions and operational use of value and waste in lean manufacturing – an interpretivist approach

Publication Type:

Journal article


International Journal of Production Research




In this article, we explore how the key concepts of lean manufacturing, value, value adding and waste are conceived and operationally used by Lean trainers in operational work processes. A comparative case study with a mixed method approach, using an explanatory sequential design, was conducted. This means that a set of quantitative data were collected, which was followed by the collection of qualitative data with the purpose of explaining and understanding the quantitative measures. An interpretivist approach is used as a framework, which implies a perspective on contemporary operations management paradigms, such as lean manufacturing, as a continuous construction of inter-subjective experiences. What becomes evident in the empirical findings is that there are both similarities and differences in the Lean trainers conceptions and use of value adding and waste. The similarities and differences can be explained by variations in two dimensions: (a) the character of the work process, which ranges between mechanical and craftsmanship, and (b) Lean trainers approach to key concepts, which ranges between being rule-based and reflective. By using a research design where the concepts of value adding and waste were used simultaneously, and adopting an interpretivist approach on lean manufacturing, we were able to reveal conditions that in other cases remain hidden.


author = {Peter E Johansson and Christer Osterman},
title = {Conceptions and operational use of value and waste in lean manufacturing – an interpretivist approach},
volume = {Online},
pages = {1--13},
month = {May},
year = {2017},
journal = {International Journal of Production Research},
url = {}