Implementation of continuous improvement (CI) in manufacturing SMEs to promote economic growth in northern England: a case study of the UK northern powerhouse project

Ramezani, Mahmoud (2022) Implementation of continuous improvement (CI) in manufacturing SMEs to promote economic growth in northern England: a case study of the UK northern powerhouse project. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Despite the fact that the continuous improvement (CI) philosophy benefits are widely recognised in many organisations, research indicates that its deployment role in macroeconomic growth in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of developing markets in Europe (northern England) is still scarce. This exploratory research aimed to assess the potential CI contribution to the economic growth of manufacturing SMEs and their position in northern England to develop a customised and practical framework to support effective and widely used CI implementation. The thesis investigates CI philosophy by conducting a comprehensive literature review and analysing the current state of manufacturing SMEs' economic growth, CI principles, and macroeconomic growth factors in developed and developing countries.

A mixed method research strategy (qualitative and quantitative methodologies) was conducted through survey and interview and was adapted to achieve the aim of this research by answering the following major research question for manufacturing SMEs in northern England: What are the implications of continuous improvement (CI) principles on macro/regional economic growth in northern England?

More than 800 manufacturing SMEs in eight major industries (pharmaceuticals, textiles, technology, beverages, chemicals, machinery, construction, and motoring) have been identified in northern England to contribute to the survey. The employment of a mixed method strategy was aided by analysing 176 survey responses. The quantitative analysis implemented the study quality criteria of reliability and validity of data with various specific statistical tests aided in addressing the six-research questions. The qualitative analysis followed by a macro-CI framework to address macro-CI feasibility based on 18 semi-structured interviews with four specific groups (Academic, CI consultants, Local authorities, and manufacturing SMEs’ operation managers) in northern England.

In the first step, the manufacturing SMEs' economic growth and CI principles factors were identified through a systematic and critical literature review and core influential factors were explored and evaluated. In the second step of this research, the importance of the role of manufacturing SMEs in the macroeconomic growth of developed and developing economies. Also, the impact of CI implementation on the financial sustainability and economic growth of manufacturing SMEs were analysed, ranked, and evaluated.

Finally, the quantitative analysis results were analysed via the interview stage (quantitative method), the feasibility of CI implementation in microenvironments was assessed, and the key barriers, challenges, and requirements of CI deployment on manufacturing SMEs in northern England were identified and analysed.

The findings of this study revealed that there is a significant potential impact of CI philosophy in improving manufacturing SMEs’ operational performance in macro-scale environments. In addition, the research indicates that CI implementation has a significant positive impact on economic growth factors on a macro and regional scale for developing economies. The key practical contributions of this doctoral research were CI philosophy's constructive impact on economic growth and a customised CI framework for manufacturing SMEs at macro environment levels based on the findings from the empirical multiple-staged research process and literature.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: continuous improvement, economy growth, manufacturing SMEs, lean management, Six Sigma
Subjects: N100 Business studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2023 07:44
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2023 08:00

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