Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management and Marketing


Over the last few decades, approaches to continuous improvement have evolved, undergoing several transformations. Each transformation has built upon strengths of a previous approach, while also shifting the emphasis between the use of a scientific and cultural underpinning necessary to achieve “quality” within an organisation.

In order to achieve the correct alignment between the scientific and cultural aspects necessary for a comprehensive improvement approach, the critical elements necessary for sustainable change must be identified and understood. This research identifies and examines the critical elements in the literature, culminating in the creation of a generic framework of the elements for continuous improvement. This framework identifies two key stages of knowledge transformation (Foundation Knowledge and Dynamic Knowledge) that must take place within an organisation if sustainable changes are to be implemented.

The literature surrounding the application of continuous improvement initiatives is well established; however the application of such techniques is less well defined in the process industries, presenting opportunity and scope for the application of continuous improvement techniques.

The application of improvement techniques in discrete or mass production environments is well established. However, the process industries present new opportunities and scope for the exploration and application of such approaches. In response to this, the generic framework for continuous improvement has then been used as a platform for the derivation of an industry specific lean six sigma methodology, referred to as the Supply Chain Improvement Methodology for the Process Industries (the SCIMPI model).

This thesis demonstrates the application of the proposed SCIMPI model in three separate case studies, each within a different sector of the process industry, and designed to explore a different aspect of the SCIMPI model.

The first case study considers a lead refinery plant, and serves as a preliminary study, exploring the feasibility of the SCIMPI model. From this, it is shown that batch-flow process facilities are well suited to continuous improvement techniques and the use of simulation.

The second case study considers a newsprint manufacture facility, successfully highlighting opportunities for improvement that had not been identified or addressed in previous improvement initiatives.

The final case study looks at an internal supply chain in the steel industry. Demonstrating the use of the SCIMPI model in a supply chain context, the case study highlights the interface of hard and soft systems approaches to drive continuous improvement initiatives.

The three case studies illustrate that the proposed SCIMPI model represents a unified, industry specific methodology, scientifically underpinned to effectively integrate the lean and six sigma approaches, in order to address the cultural and operational needs of a sustainable improvement approach.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.