WIT Press

Lean and complex systems: a case study of materials handling at an on-land warehouse facility supporting subsea gas operations


Free (open access)


Volume 13 (2018), Issue 2



Page Range

199 - 207

Paper DOI



WIT Press


Per Engelseth & Daniela Gundersen


Commonly warehouse management is subject to deterministic planning procedures within the organizational scope of supply chain management. Lately lean principles have become more widespread and also adapted to develop materials handling within warehouses. Several facets of analysis are considered in this case study on outsourced warehousing in the Norwegian petroleum industry. This study reveals empirically how outsourced warehousing as service provision involves an organization problem with waste found both at the service management and at the process levels. Analysis points to how lean principles of process improvement may be combined with complex systems thinking. The case reveals examples of how warehouse management and its operations are full of complexities leading to waste. While lean usually is used hands on to manage these wastes through manual incremental development, another organisation of continuous innovation is suggested here. Lean is suggested be developed as organizational context of complex systems information warehouse management system software. Following lean principles evokes many types of process waste at the studied warehouse. Instead on following the manual stepwise and continuous process improvement approach of lean in all areas of organization, a more radical change to complex systems evident in information system design to support warehousing processes is proposed with lean as its organizational context.


case study, complex systems, lean, material handling, Norwegian petroleum industry, services industry, Warehouse management.