Innovation in manufacturing

Roger G Schroeder, Gary D. Scudder, Dawn R. Elm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Innovation has recently become a subject of much interest to academics and managers alike. This awakening interest has been brought on by increased competition and a desire to improve business performance. While much has been written on innovation, in general, little has appeared on manufacturing innovation. This paper attempts to provide insight into this subject by analyzing the perspectives of manufacturing managers on what manufacturing innovation is, how it can be measured, and how it can be improved. While the literature and research have addressed important aspects of innovation in manufacturing, further understanding is needed, especially in the definition and measurement of innovation in manufacturing. A generally accepted definition of innovation in a manufacturing context will provide a basis for development of appropriate measures of innovation (not performance), as well as leading to methods for improving innovation (and hence, performance). This paper reports on a series of group discussions with manufacturing managers in how to define, measure, and improve innovation in a manufacturing context. A group of 65 manufacturing managers (vice-presidents, plant managers and manufacturing directors) was brought together and divided into seven small groups. Most of these managers had direct responsibility for from one to five manufacturing plants of various sizes. Each of the small groups was given one of the following three questions: (1) How do you define innovation in manufacturing? (2) How do you measure innovation in manufacturing? or (3) How would you improve innovation in manufacturing? Nominal groups were utilized to "brainstorm" answers to the appropriate questions in each small group. A framework for manufacturing innovation is developed from the data. The framework shows that manufacturing results are affected by the degree of innovation present in manufacturing and by various factors external to manufacturing and the firm. The degree of innovation. in turn, is affected by several elements within manufacturing which can be managed by the firm (resources, structure, goals and culture). The framework which has been developed from these data can be used by managers and researchers alike to define, measure, and improve innovation in manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Operations Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989


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