Quality 4.0 and Kaizen During Disruptive Times: Addressing the Triple Helix Actors’ COVID-19 Pandemic Challenges


Submission Open: 1st April 2023
Submission Deadline: 30th June 2023
Expected Publication: 1st Quarter of 2024

The triple helix actors (academic, organizations, and governments) live in a disruptive world due to worldwide technological progress and health events. The implementation of Industry 4.0 across the globe, which integrates Internet technologies and smart objects in manufacturing operations (Lasi et al., 2014), has been used by other industrial dimensions to reinvent them.  An example of this update is the quality dimension with the creation of Quality 4.0.  Some of the future directions included in Quality 4.0, but not limited to, are data science, modelling, and simulation, and integrating innovation with quality (Zonnenshain and Kenett, 2020).  Therefore, academic institutions updated their curriculum and developed new degrees (at bachelor and master level), organizations invested in implementing new technologies and training their employees, and governments created new regulations (law and financial stimulus) to promote Quality 4.0.

On the other hand, since the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global COVID-19 pandemic; suddenly, academic institutions, organizations, and government focused their actions on preserving life and health, living as a second priority the economic stability and day-to-day activities.  The triple helix actors were unprepared for disrupted daily operation events: academic institutions were not prepared for remote-teaching systems (Daniel, 2020), only 20% of companies had a contingency plan (Euromonitor 2020), and governments scrambled to design health policies and financial packages.  As a result, the entire world has been facing a severe socio-economic crisis with the following impacts (but not limited): financial losses from manufacturing and services organizations (Kelp and Becker, 2020) and global poverty increased (Buheji et al. 2020). 

After implementing new technologies, or as a reaction plan to address crisis time, members from the triple helix use to focus their actions on reducing expenses.  Sometimes, impoverishment pushes you to think foolishly and implement wrong actions (Ohno, 2013).  For example, take decisions using only data instead of visiting the Gemba, think in a short-term horizon, fire employees, close factories, cut the budget, eliminate less profitable products, etc.  However, other organizations see disruptive times as an opportunity to improve and innovate processes and products (Afthonidis and Tsiotras 2014; Lee and Trimi, 2018), achieving business success.

Kaizen, a Japanese concept, means slight improvements every day, everyone, and everywhere (Imai, 1986). Kaizen could be developed at three levels (Ohno, 2013): improve the way of using existing equipment (manual work kaizen), improve machine tools or equipment (equipment Kaizen), and improve reversing process sequence (process kaizen). Another classification of Kaizen is focus in management, groups, and individuals (Imai, 1986). Kaizen management focuses on the logistical, process and strategic points of greatest importance, and provides the impetus to maintain progress and worker morale; quality circles, Kaizen teams, and Jishu Kanri groups, groups that use various statistical tools and methodologies to solve problems (Kata-Kaizen) represent Group Kaizen. Individual Kaizen is one aimed at improving and developing work through skills. Mechanisms such as Kaizen Teian (mechanisms of proposals or suggestions) or Kaizen-Coaching are used (Imai 1986). Practitioners and academics emphasized the importance of continuous improvement project initiatives (or Kaizen projects) to success in a competitive environment (Imai, 1986; Harry and Schroeder, 2000; Suarez-Barraza and Linhgam, 2008).  Some examples of Kaizen projects include Kaizen events, Lean-kaizen projects, Six Sigma projects, Lean Six Sigma projects, Shainin, and Quality Improvement projects (traditional improvement projects).  On the other hand, innovation is defined as introducing something new, such as a product, method, or idea (Kahn, 2018).  Product innovation has several product development approaches, including Scrum, design thinking, system thinking, and others (Stewart et al., 2020).

More than a few articles and special issues journals have been published addressing topics related to COVID-19 pandemic, such as manufacturing repurposing (Operational Management Research journal), operational excellence in perishable product supply chain (International Journal of Logistic Management), sourcing strategies (Journal of Global Operations and Strategic Sourcing), technology and innovation management (International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management), digital transformation (Technovation), and performance measurement (International Journal of Quality and Reliability).  Nonetheless, there is a lack of publications showing how the triple helix actors addressed the COVID-19 pandemic challenge using Kaizen projects or innovation frameworks.

Suitable research topics

Topics that might be proposed to this special issue included a practical, novel, and original contributions investigating the following themes in any of the triple helix actors:

  • The improvement of operations or supporting processes affected by COVID-19 pandemic using Kaizen projects.
  • Elimination or reduction of MUDA, MURI or MURA applying process innovations during COVID-19 pandemic
  • New product development to address current customers’ needs as result of COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The use of organizations’ Kaizen initiatives and/or contingency plans to respond to COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
  • The role of Industry 4.0 and/or Quality 4.0 to conduct Kaizen project or new product development to address COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
  • The role of performance measurement systems to identify Kaizen projects and innovation opportunities resulted from COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
  • Organizational and/or operational excellence assessment to develop a COVID-19 pandemic Kaizen projects contingency plan.
  • Critical success factors for Kaizen projects or product development projects.

For this special issue, empirical research with theoretical and practitioner contributions is the most expected. Qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as surveys, case studies, and action research might be appropriate proposals for this Special Issue. Relevant conceptual proposals and systematic literature reviews may also be considered. Should you have any queries regarding this special issue, please do not hesitate to contact one of the guest editors.


Submissions must be done considering the deadline herein described, following the authors’ guidelines of The TQM Journal

Guest Editors

Fernando González-Aleu, Ph.D. (Manning guest editors)
Associate Professor
School of Engineering
Universidad de Monterrey
San Pedro Garza García - México
[email protected]

Prof. Manuel Francisco Suarez Barraza
Research Professor
International Management Business
Universidad de las Americas Puebla
Puebla, Mexico
[email protected]

Prof. Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes
Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management
Centre for Supply Chain Improvement
University of Derby
Derby – UK
[email protected]

Prof. Jiju Antony
Industrial and Systems Engineering

Khalifa University
Abu Dhabi, UAE
[email protected]


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