The human side of lean logistics

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Logistics is a highly competitive industry, hence logistic service providers (LSP) generally tend to get small margins on their activities. This promotes a managerial tendency to see labor as a source of costs that needs to be disciplined and controlled, rather than a source of added value that needs to be fostered. As a consequence, work pressure is high and the motivating potential of jobs may suffer. In this paper we contend that the concept of “creative tension” (Womack, Jones, & Roos, 1990) taken from the lean production (LP) philosophy may provide for the LSP a way to reconcile the need for added value and the need for cost control. Lean jobs not only require workers to continuously reduce waste in the work environment, but they also bestow on them certain responsibilities to create value. Their contributions to Kaizen support a company’s lean journey. In this paper we show that lean can overcome the misfit between worker expectations and job characteristics which will enhance employees’ personal outcomes. The fit between job characteristics and workers’ expectations and preferences was investigated using Hackman & Oldham’s job characteristics model (JCM; Hackman & Oldham, 1976). A survey to measure the variables from the JCM was administered to a sample of 32 employees from a Dutch LSP. The most important result indicated that the extent to which the level of creativity desired by workers fitted the level of creativity required by their jobs was a strong predictor of psychological states (e.g. meaningfulness) and outcomes (e.g. turnover intent) Given the possibilities offered by the concept of creative tension, we argue that the lean philosophy provides the tools to promote the human side of logistics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Logistics (ISL2009)
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Supply Chains and Inter-Firm Networks
EditorsK.S. Pawar, C.S. Lalwani
Place of PublicationNottingham
PublisherCentre for Concurrent Enterprise, Nottingham University
ISBN (Print)9780853582205
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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