• C-Lean, an Integrated Approach to Achieve Circularity in Manufacturing Operations of SMEs

      Garza-Reyes, Jose Arturo; Anosike, Anthony I.; Nadeem, Simon Peter (University of DerbyCentre for Supply Chain Improvement, College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, 2019-06-21)
      Purpose – The concept of Circular Economy has gained momentum both because its emergence is timely and that it proposes the solution that makes businesses more responsible, considerate and ethical. While the concept is straightforward to understand, its practical implementation is challenging, especially for manufacturing SMEs. Its popularity and adoption, mainly at the macro level is at rise, however, that is not the case at the micro and meso level (SMEs). Without the participation of SMEs in adopting Circular Economy, its full spectrum cannot be realised, since SMEs contribution to national GDP is nearly 50% globally. Therefore this research focuses on developing an integrated framework to achieve circularity in manufacturing operations of SMEs by combining the principles of Circular Economy and Lean, as they both focus on waste elimination and value creation/ preservation. The proposed framework (C-LEAN) utilises Lean tools and methods mingled with Circular Economy principles to achieve circularity as well as efficiency and effectiveness in manufacturing operations, especially at SMEs level. Design/ Methodology/ Approach – The framework’s design/ development is inspired by existing frameworks proposed by scholars. While the framework might seem a reflection of DMAIC, it, however, differ in its core nature/ purpose as the former focuses on problem-solving existing in operations, while for the proposed framework an operation might be functioning fine but would require a change to deal with bigger picture issues, such as resource scarcity and environmental damage. The conceptual framework is verified through Delphi study, where experts (both the academic and the practitioners) have been engaged to analyse the construct and practicality of the conceptual development. The framework has been modified/ updated in light of Delphi study’s results. Furthermore, the framework has been validated through a case study method with partial implementation, where its initial phases have been applied in two medium size manufacturing companies, to test its practical relevance. Findings – It was realised that there is both a massive lack of awareness/ understanding about Circular Economy as well as skills/ knowledge to identify the potential and adopt Circular Economy in the manufacturing operations among SMEs. However, at the same time, the existence of a Circular Economy practice was observed in a company where the purpose was solely for economic benefit, without any knowledge or intent of participating in Circular Economy goals. The analysis of companies pointed to potential improvements, that will lead towards achieving circularity in those respective companies. At the same time, the framework serves as a tool for the companies to continuously monitor and explore potential to improve their operations and achieve efficiency with effectiveness in a circular manner. Research implication/ Limitation – This research’s novelty lies in the fact that the convergence of Circular Economy and Lean has not been explored by scholars to its full extent and that no such framework has been developed earlier by combining the strengths of two concepts to benefit the management of manufacturing operations, especially at SMEs level. A major limitation is the partial implementation of the framework with the projected scenario of the potential outputs. The full implementation of the framework was not realistic, as it requires time to see the observable outcomes as well as changes in processes and capital to acquire resources. Practical implications – The proposed framework is of greater practical relevance as it is grounded in two concepts of Circular Economy and Lean, and benefits from the approach/ design of earlier developed frameworks. Moreover, an amalgamation of Circular Economy with Lean further affirms its relevance as Lean has been widely appraised and adopted among the manufacturing sector.