The Cranfield Doctorates

Cranfield School of Management

Visit Cranfield School of Management's main website

Transfer of Kaizen

Supervisor: Marek Szwejczewski BA (Hons) MSc MSc DipM PhD

Supervisor: Bob Lillis BSc PhD PGCHE MIH FHEA

Kaizen (continuous improvement) is considered to be one of the factors behind the success of Japanese manufacturing (Imai, 1986). It is also an important element of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean manufacturing (Kenney & Florida, 1993). The concept of kaizen has become a recognised modern management technique across the world and it has proven to be a good method for improving performance. Global companies that successfully introduce it in one location look at ways of transferring it to other areas. However, recent research suggests that they have experienced difficulties with the transfer to subsidiaries (Yokozawa, Steenhuis, & de Bruijn, 2008).

Although there have been a few studies carried out that examined the transfer of modern manufacturing management techniques, in general, between company sites, there have been very few studies looking specifically at kaizen (for example: Aoki, 2008; Recht & Wilderom, 1998). 

Further research is needed to understand the process of international transfer of the kaizen technique between a manufacturing company's subsidiaries or a service organisation's locations. In particular, the research questions that need further investigation are:

        1.      How is kaizen transferred by manufacturers (or services) between their subsidiaries, factories or hub network? 
2.      What are the enablers and inhibitors of successful transfer?
3.     Is there a difference in the approach to transfer between industrial sectors? Do service organisations adopt a different approach to manufacturing companies
4.     What alternative operations structures are deployed by organisations seeking to provide an efficient and effective service resource across global, regional or 
                 national boundaries?

Doctoral Researcher Profile:

It would be useful if the researcher had a working knowledge of continuous improvement and possibly process improvement tools and techniques.

Potential Research Topics:

Kaizen, continuous improvement, intra-firm technology transfer (across national, regional or international boundaries), network configuration.


Aoki, K. (2008). Transferring Japanese kaizen activities to overseas plant in China. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28, No. 6, pp. 518-539.

Brunet, A. P., & New, S. (2003). Kaizen in Japan: an empirical study. International journal of operations &production management, Vol. 23, No. 11, pp. 1426-1446

Kenney, M., & Florida, R. (1993). Beyond mass production: The Japanese System and its transfer to the U.S.New York: Oxford University Press.

Imai, M. (1986). KAIZEN: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success (First Ed.). New York: Random House Business Division

Recht, R., & Wilderom, C. (1998). Kaizen and culture: on the transferability of Japanese suggestion systems. International Business Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 7-22

Yokozawa, K., Steenhuis, H., & de Bruijn, E. J. (2008). Current issues for internationalization of Japanese manufacturing companies. Paper presented at the POM: Production & Operations Management, Tokyo, Japan

Contact Details:

Dr Marek Szwejczewski Tel:  01234 751122  email:

Dr Bob Lillis Tel:  01234 751122    email:






















home about mba msc doctorates executive development research information contact us