Waste identification and elimination in HEIs: the role of Lean thinking

Jacqueline Ann Douglas*, Jiju Antony, Alexander Douglas

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    101 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to translate the eight wastes of Lean for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), identify some examples of each waste and to propose appropriate Lean solutions to those wastes. Design/methodology/approach – To identify wastes within HEIs a combination of observation and cause-and-effect analysis utilising brainstorming were employed using a convenience sample of HE academic staff. Findings – Once all eight wastes were successfully translated for HEIs a range of examples were identified in both academic and support services, including excessive movement of people, over production of materials, excessive inventory and waste of human resources. Appropriate Lean solutions to the identified wastes include the use of 5S, point-of-use-storage, process mapping/value stream mapping and level scheduling. Research limitations/implications – The cited examples come from a limited number of observations in only a few HEIs. More valid and reliable data would come from a more extensive sample of HEIs. Practical implications – In order to improve bottom-line performance in times of constrained resources HEIs can reduce waste and hence costs of poor quality by using Lean thinking and accessing, what Joseph Juran (1962) called, “The gold in the mine”. This can be done without reducing the level of services. Social implications – Particularly in a recession, HEIs need to show that they are using government funding (public money) in the most efficient and effective way possible. Lean thinking can help achieve both these objectives. Originality/value – Previous papers on Lean thinking applied to HEIs have concentrated on individual processes such as curriculum design or student assessment. This paper takes a holistic view demonstrating how Lean thinking theories can be practically applied across both academic and administrative areas of HEI operations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)970-981
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Quality and Reliability Management
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • Higher education
    • Lean thinking
    • Observation
    • Waste

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Business,Management and Accounting
    • Strategy and Management


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