Survey of sustainability of continuous improvement systems: a comparison of two manufacturing communities in Spain and Mexico

Carmen Jaca, Manuel F. Suárez-Barraza, Elisabeth Viles-Díez, Ricardo Mateo-Dueñas, Javier Santos-García


Purpose: During the last 50 years industrial companies have adopted continuous improvement systems to improve their competitiveness. However, the maintenance of improvement systems is not an easy matter. Some companies, after an initial period of one to two years, abandon the system for various reasons. This article aims to examine the level of application of Continuous Improvement Systems and the factors which support sustainability over time in two different regions.

Design/methodology/approach: In order to obtain a comparative result between two different regions, a survey was conducted in two industrial zones—one in the north of Spain and another in Mexico—that are important industrial clusters these countries. The study was conducted through the analysis of survey data. Specifically, the survey was directed at large industrial enterprises who had participated in activities supported by local foundations for the promotion of quality and improvement.

Findings and Originality/value: We suggest the following three keys for sustainable improvement: greater involvement of task forces in the improvement program, a PDCA improvement cycle for improvement and a clear purpose for continuous improvement, integration of the continuous improvement system in the organization, and the establishment of indicators associated with the system.

Research limitations/implications: The comparative study focused on only two industrial zones in Spain and Mexico. In that sense, the findings of the research are limited to the Basque zone and geographical zone of Toluca-Lerma.

Practical implications: Some of the companies have started to apply some continuous improvement techniques in a sustainability way. Therefore, these findings could be very useful for general and operation managers that are involved in continuous improvement systems in industrial companies in Spain and Mexico.

Social implications: As a consequence, slow and small transformations in certain work culture issues (i.e., teamwork and problem solving routines) can have an influence on employees' work and social wellbeing.

Originality/value: This research work represents a theoretical contribution that helps to close the gap in the literature on the sustainability of Continuous Improvement Systems in Iberoamerican countries.


continuous improvement, sustainability, survey, abandonment, participation

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2024

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience