Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Johnson, Fraser

2nd Supervisor

Menor, Larry

Joint Supervisor


This thesis examines a novel conceptualization and operationalization of the lean supply management (LSM) construct and investigates its practical relevance for the Canadian agri-food sector. The thesis consists of three integrated essays, intended to advance the LSM scholarly theorization and managerial understanding. The first essay offers a systematic literature review to gain a better comprehension of the current state of research on LSM regarding its definition, practices, and frameworks, as well as context and contingencies related to its implementation. The second essay offers a conceptual development of the LSM construct presenting a new definition and a new contextual contingent model that is supplemented by an empirical validation of its practical utility through a Delphi study. The new model shows an alignment association between supply challenges and performance objectives that aligns and influences the selection of lean pillars. Findings identified the main supply challenges faced by Canadian agri-food processors and the lean pillars used to address them when pursuing specific performance objectives, their associations, and alignments. The third essay offers a qualitative inquiry to deepen the understanding of LSM in the Canadian agri-food sector using multiple case studies, which reveal how and why LSM is being utilized in the industry. This study determined the specific lean concepts, tools, and practices to deploy to achieve performance objectives when facing supply challenges. Results from this thesis contribute new insights to reorient the scholarly examination of LSM and practical illustrations to guide managers in LSM implementations.

Summary for Lay Audience

The agri-food sector plays an important role in the Canadian economy; however, given its intrinsic characteristics, it is constantly exposed to supply challenges, for example, in terms of cost fluctuations, defective products, late deliveries, and safety issues. A beneficial approach to address those challenges may be the use of lean, which is a philosophy initiated and developed in Japan by Toyota Motor Company that entails the continuous improvement of operations by elimination of wasteful activities while upholding respect for people. The extension of lean from manufacturing plants to the supply chain is known as lean supply management (LSM). This thesis examines the application of LSM in the Canadian agri-food sector by offering three important contributions: (1) a review of previous articles about LSM, (2) a LSM study consisting of three rounds of surveys, and (3) a descriptive narrative of the use of LSM by six medium-large manufacturing food companies. The results of this study identify the main supply challenges faced in this industry and the lean practices preferred to address those challenges, aligned to specific objectives. The findings also illustrate how and why these companies apply lean principles when dealing with their suppliers. Managers interested in the lean philosophy may benefit from this work by enhancing their understanding of LSM when learning from real experiences of successful lean implementations.