Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business


School of Business

First Advisor

Dr. Angela Wright


Lean applications are widespread in today’s business world. Lean started as the Toyota Production System, or World Class Manufacturing, and developed into Lean, as a consequence of the major Womack and Jones publication. The Machine that Changed the World, published in 1990. This dissertation examines the impact of Lean on Irish manufacturing generally, and then examines the impact of Lean on professional Industrial Engineering in Ireland. It looks at the implications for professional Industrial Engineers in a Lean environment. Then emergent developments in Lean and Industrial Engineering in Ireland are examined. This research specifically seeks to examine the question of whether Lean is the new Industrial Engineering. It then seeks to examine whether Lean is a passing fad, like Quality Circles, IS09000, TQM, and other developments over the years.

A qualitative approach was taken to this research. Primary data in the form of eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted with practising Industrial Engineers, Lean practitioners and academics. These interviews were used to develop an understanding of the complexity of issues relating to Industrial Engineering and Lean in Ireland and the interactions between them. They enabled responses to be probed and elaborated on where appropriate. Respondents were given the interview questions in advance to enable them to reflect on their answers, and thus be able to better articulate their considered viewpoints on the issues raised - the overall objective being to improve the quality of answers. The overall objective was to collect a rich and detailed set of data for analysis. These data were then analysed to form the basis of this report.

The study finds that most Industrial Engineering participants in the study are insistent that Lean is not the new Industrial Engineering. They believe that Industrial Engineering is more thorough, and ultimately more effective than Lean is. The research finds that Lean is now well embedded in many organisations, and is here to stay in the longer term. It may be relabelled as something else in the future, but there is little doubt that Lean has displaced Industrial Engineering to at least some extent. Another important finding of this study is that many managers do not understand what Industrial Engineering is, and perceive it as not being relevant to their needs. At the same time, the research has also found that there is a growing market for the skills that Industrial Engineers have. A major finding of this study is that a morphing or merging of Industrial Engineering and Lean will occur. The focus that traditional Industrial Engineering had on productivity improvement in manufacturing, is now seen to have widened out to include all the other parts of the supply chain as well, and now the voice of the customer is also included as the major driving force of total organisational effort. Customers, and potential customers of Industrial Engineering and of Lean are now seeking to continuously improve their processes. The focus of customers is now on continuous improvement, and industrial engineers need to be seen to be relevant to that market. It is also time for Industrial Engineers to update their skill sets also to build up that relevance even further.

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