The Interaction between Technology, Progress and Economic Growth
Edited by Terrence E. Brown and Jan Ulijn
Chapter 10: Multi-path system emergence: an evolutionary framework to analyse process innovation
10. Multi-path system emergence: an evolutionary framework to analyse process innovation Takahiro Fujimoto 1. INTRODUCTION: PROCESS INNOVATION AND EVOLUTION The main purpose of this short chapter is to propose an additional concept to analyse an evolutionary type of innovation – multi-path system emergence. It focuses on a long-term process innovation that creates a new and competitive manufacturing system, such as the Ford production system and the Toyota-style production system. Such a manufacturing system is often described and analysed as a coherent set of organizational routines (Nelson and Winter, 1982). Thus, one of the central questions to the issue of process innovations (that is, creation of new manufacturing systems) is whether a set of manufacturing routines are developed all at once by a deliberate plan of the innovating individual or organization. However, the history of manufacturing systems, and that in fabrication-assembly industries in particular, seems to indicate that such innovations tended to be a result of trial and error (Hounshell, 1984), or a complex interplay of plans and chances, visions and imperatives, creations and imitations (Fujimoto, 1999). Also, the creation of a coherent manufacturing system is often described as a long-term cumulative process rather than a one-time ‘big bang’ (Hounshell, 1984). If this is the nature of the process innovations in question, what kind of conceptual framework should we adopt for better understanding of such phenomena? Generally speaking, an artiﬁcial system, which looks as if it were deliberately designed as a rational one in terms of competitiveness or survival, may have...
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