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The learning way to production performance. An evolutionary perspective on company-specific production systems (XPS)

Torbjørn Hekneby of the School of Business and Law at the University of Agder has submitted his thesis entitled «The learning way to production performance. An evolutionary perspective on company-specific production systems (XPS)» and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Thursday 19 August 2021. (Photo: Private)

My findings challenge the classic understanding of how standard concepts such as Lean and TPS are used for production performance.

Torbjørn Hekneby

PhD Candidate

The disputation will be streamed on this link: www.uia.no/live/event/disputaskrs

Torbjørn Hekneby of the School of Business and Law at the University of Agder has submitted his thesis entitled «The learning way to production performance. An evolutionary perspective on company-specific production systems (XPS)» and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Thursday 19 August 2021.

He has followed the PhD-programme at the School of Business and Law at the University of Agder.

The doctoral work has followed the Industrial Ph.D. scheme, 60 % of the funding by the Research Council of Norway, and 40 % by Storform AS (In Norwegian only).

Summary of the thesis by Torbjørn Hekneby:

The learning way to production performance. An evolutionary perspective on company-specific production systems (XPS)

Manufacturing companies (MCs) implement " best-practice" concepts such as Lean and the Toyota Production System (TPS) for enhanced production improvement. However, 30 years of research have shown that very few succeed in this implementation, which is often related to the challenge of copying Lean and TPS in various technological, political, and social contexts.

New strategies and "self-adjusted" concepts (XPS)

As a reaction to this, MCs have explored new strategies for implementing best­ practice concepts.

Instead of copying a concept, the company tailors its own "self-adjusted" concept that is built on one or more standard concepts. This phenomenon goes by the name of "company-specific production systems" (XPS) and seems to be an important trend among (global) MCs.

A key point of an XPS is its strategic importance to the company. The selection of concepts and the adaptation and adjustment to the company's uniqueness take place at a corporate level, and they are strongly supported by the top management of the company.

After the creation phase, the XPS is distributed to the MC's (global) network. Hence, the initial adjustment and tailoring process is supposed to secure adoption and standardization across the company's network.

Limited XPS knowledge

Despite the increased interest and strategic importance of the XPS phenomenon, knowledge of how an XPS is developed and implemented is limited. For example, we know little about how standard concepts are adapted to the company's uniqueness, or about whether an XPS helps to ensure standardization in a (global) network.

Furthermore, we have little knowledge about how an XPS is institutionalized and established as continuous improvement in a network.

Understanding the XPS phenomenon is, therefore, of both theoretical and practical interest.

Case from Elkem ASA

I have followed Elkem ASA, one of Norway' s oldest MCs. Elkem developed its own XPS, the Elkem Business System (EBS), which has strongly contributed to increasing the company' s focus on process improvement across its global network.

The development of the XPS must be seen as an integrated and developing learning process. The XPS was created without a master plan.

Different concepts were adjusted and adapted to the company' s uniqueness through extensive experimentation at different levels in the company. For example, shift managers on the production floor were removed to ensure more participation on the shopfloor level. The learning process, which took place over 15 years, was finally consolidated in an overall XPS.

I have also found that Elkem managed to standardize their XPS across geographical locations by building a strong internal culture, resembling a religious belief. This was done by institutionalizing basic assumptions relating to learning and continuous improvement at all levels of the company. The Elkem culture also developed norms, strongly recognizing involvement and participation at the shopfloor level in production performance.

Findings

My findings challenge the classic understanding of how standard concepts such as Lean and TPS are used for production performance.

The XPS process in Elkem can be described as an integrated learning process, where standard concepts represent a starting point for organizational learning, which in turn creates increased production improvement.

My findings have theoretical and practical implications for companies that want to develop their own company­ specific improvement programs. Central to this is the understanding of how to create learning organizations.

Disputation facts:

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place in Arne Garborgs auditorium, B1-006, Campus Kristiansand - and will be streamed on this link: www.uia.no/live/event/disputaskrs

Head of department Bjørn-Tore Flåten, Department of Management, School of Business and Law at the University of Agder, will chair the disputation.

The trial lecture Thursday 19 August at 10:00 hours

Public defence Thursday 19 August at 11:30 hours

 

Given topic for trial lecture«Discuss how an organizational learning approach may facilitate and/or challenge managers in the development of company specific production systems (XPS)»

Thesis Title«The learning way to production performance. An evolutionary perspective on company-specific production systems (XPS)»

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

The thesis is available here:

The CandidateTorbjørn Hekneby (1965, Oslo - grow up at Notodden) Norwegian Army Military Academy, Gimlemoen at Kristiansand (1987 -1989), Major in sport at Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (1999). masterprogramme in Executive Management at BI - Norwegian Business School (2002) studied psychology at the universities of Oslo and Bergen (2009 - 2011).Work experience as a consultant in Organizational development and management for the last 20 years.Partner and owner of Storform AS, a consulting company for management and organisational development. At present Hekneby is responsible for two programs in EVU - Continuing Education at the School of Business and Law, and are hired as an Associate Professor at the School of Business and Law, ​Department of Management from August 2021.

Opponents:

First opponent: Professor Erlend Nybakk, Kristiania University College, Oslo

Second opponent: Associate Professor Trude Høgvold Olsen, School of Business and Economics in Harstad, UiT The Arctic university of Norway

Professor Tor Helge Aas, Department of Management, School of Business and Law at the University of Agder, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment commitee.

Supervisors in the Doctoral Work were Professor Jan Inge Jenssen, UiA (main supervisor), Professor Jonas A. Ingvaldsen, NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Professor Jos Benders, NTNU see also Benders at KU Leuven, Belgium (co-supervisors)