Lean and Industry 4.0 technologies have attracted the interest of manufacturing companies since they can support them in coping with the increasingly challenging market demands. However, knowledge on which technology to implement, how to do so, etc. is missing. Moreover, universities (especially applied universities) need to adapt to these new trends including Lean and Industry 4.0 in their curricula in order to develop the Operations Managers of the future. In the European LEAN4.0 project, knowledge has been developed that can be used within universities and within companies.  The European LEAN4.0 project will be completed at the end of 2021, and results will be presented in different ways and made available to interested parties.

A preview of the project results of our LEAN4.0 project was given at the 7th European Lean Educators Conference (ELEC2021). The conference was organized by our consortium partner Sintef.  (Add picture of Daryl Power).  The interest in this conference was great: more than 100 Lean Educators and managers of companies participated in the conference. ELEC2021 took place from October 25-27, 2021.  The central theme of the conference was “Learning in the Digital Era. Around 50 papers were presented in parallel sessions.  There were also 5 interesting keynote presentations.  The central theme was ‘what’ and ‘how’ to learn in our increasingly digital society. The focus was on learning within universities as well as learning within companies. Moreover, the link between universities and companies was also a topic on the conference.  Basically, all the topics which we cover in our LEAN 4.0 companies were covered in the conference. An overview of the presentations given at ELEC2021 can be found in https://www.sintef.no/contentassets/f5dabfda24434343ab38070571eb3883/program-and-schedule—the-7th-european-lean-educator-conference.pdf

Several presentations in ELEC2021 were given by researchers within the European LEAN4.0 project.

  • Mitchell de Roy, Martin Linde and Wilfred Knol presented the paper “Towards effective Lean QRM Yellow-belt training programs: a longitudinal analysis”.  By means of a quantitative study, they showed that Lean yellow-belt training programs should focus on practicing improvement routines (A3, Toyota kata, etc.) within which essential lean tools (5S, VSA, etc.) are used.  To see a long-term positive effect, a facilitating role of management is important.
  • Mirco Peron, Erlend Alfnes, and Fabio Sgarbossa showed how the Logistics4.0 Lab at NTNU is used as a center for educational development in the field of Industry 4.0. The lab also connects industry and university.
  • Daryl Powell, Melanie de Vries, Mitchell van Roij, and Jannes Slomp presented the Blended Network Action Learning (BNAL) methodology which enables companies and managers to accelerate the solving of complex LEAN4.0 problems. Key ingredients in the BNAL methodology are (1) identifying the required network, (2) establishing the required (blended) communication, (3) planning and executing improvement actions and (4) learning from the results ánd the development process. 
  • Mitchell de Roy illustrated how, within the BNAL methodology, multiple student teams can be used in the planning/design phase of improvement projects. 
  • Jannes Slomp presented a study of the changing roles and responsibilities of operations managers in companies moving towards LEAN4.0.  This study showed the increasing importance of ‘using networks’ and ‘being able to communicate good improvement stories’.  Also, the LEAN4.0 operations manager will play a more important role in developing the company’s strategy (“being the brains of your boss”).

Currently, the LEAN4.0 research team is working on reporting the project and developing a reference model for smart lean operations.  The report will include a description of a methodology for developing a LEAN4.0 roadmap on a company-specific basis.

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