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Said Business School
Vlerick Business School Executive Education


Crisis, Resilience and Survival - Lessons from the global auto industry
Professor Matthias Holweg: Innovation, learning and sensing


Said Business School
Professor of Operations Management

Matthias is interested in how organisations generate and sustain process improvement practices. His research focuses on the evolution and adaption of process improvement methodologies as they are being applied across manufacturing, service, back-office and public sector contexts.

He has written extensively on the history, evolution and adaption of lean production in automotive manufacturing, distribution and healthcare. Together with John Bicheno he is co-author of “The Lean Toolbox”, a practitioner guide to lean transformation that has sold more than 100,000 copies across five editions and is available in English, Danish, Swedish and Chinese.

In the tradition of ‘gemba’ (a Japanese term meaning ‘actual place, actual facts’), Matthias works closely with executives at a number of firms, both in terms of the research as well as executive education. He has worked with manufacturing firms all over the world to identify best practices, including global benchmarking studies of automotive assembly practices. The automotive industry has been a natural context for his work, while more recently he has started working with public and private sector service firms to understand the necessary adaption of manufacturing best practices to non-manufacturing settings. He has advised several government agencies on automotive industry matters; he was a member of the New Automotive Innovation and Growth Team (NAIGT), and currently serves on the UK Supply Chain Group of the Automotive Council UK at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

More recently, Matthias has started working on digital operations, and in particular the economics of additive manufacturing (“3D printing”), in order to determine how to use this set of new technologies to generate competitive advantage. He is particularly interested in learning what role digital manufacturing will play in reshaping product offerings, the competitive landscape between firms, and existing supply chain structures.

Prior to joining Oxford he was on the faculty of the University of Cambridge and a Sloan Industry Center Fellow at MIT’s Engineering Systems Division.

Matthias’s main areas of expertise are:

  •  process improvement in manufacturing, services and the office (“white collar lean”);
  • backsliding, improvement fatigue, and leakage in process improvement;
  • the economics of 3D printing;
  • digital operations, and the integration of digital and tool-based manufacturing;
  • industrial policy, especially in the automotive context.
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