From production systems to health care delivery systems: a retrospective look on similarities, difficulties and opportunities

Xiang Zhong, Hyo Kyung Lee, Jingshan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Manufacturing systems have attracted substantial research attentions during the last 50 years. In recent years, there has been growing interest in health care systems research to improve efficiency, safety and care quality. The similarities identified between manufacturing systems and health care delivery systems heighten the importance of transferring the experience and knowledge in manufacturing to health care. In this paper, based on the lessons we learned and the experience we obtained during our journey from production systems research to health care delivery systems study, we discuss the similarities between production systems and health care delivery systems in system modelling, design, performance evaluation and continuous improvements and investigate the differences and difficulties that stem from variability, constraints, dynamics and human behaviour. Building upon these, the opportunities encompassing care operations, planning and scheduling, patient transitions, and safety and teamwork in health care delivery systems are discussed. Finally, the challenges and future directions are proposed. We expect this work to serve as a catalyst to stimulate more in-depth and comprehensive studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4212-4227
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 18
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation [grant number 1233807] and [grant number 1536987].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • challenge
  • difference
  • difficulty
  • health care delivery system
  • opportunity
  • production system
  • similarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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