Sociology professor Darina Lepadatu earns international book award


KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 14, 2021) — Have you ever thought about what it takes to keep a multi-billion-dollar industry running? Darina Lepadatu, professor of sociology and international conflict management at Kennesaw State University, and her research partner Tom Janoski, from the University of Kentucky, have spent more than 20 years studying the auto manufacturing industry and its use of “lean production.”

The President of the Georgia Sociological Association, Dr. Lepadatu describes lean production as “trying to create the best product or the highest quality at the lowest cost.” Essentially, lean companies are trying to employ fewest people who can produce the highest quality product with as little waste as possible, but continuous improvement and teamwork are key features of lean organizations.

Lepadatu and her team were awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that was able to fund their research on lean production in the auto industry across the United States. 

"At the time, one of President Obama's priorities was manufacturing research, so it was part of the stimulus package," said Lepadatu. "We were really excited about the grant and conducted the research at manufacturing factories in both the northern and southern United States." 

From this research, the pair has been able to publish three books. The latest one, The Cambridge International Handbook for Lean Production, was released in April 2021. What set Lepadatu’s book apart from the rest was that it looked at lean production in a multi-national and interdisciplinary context.

“We have worked with some of the leading lean experts in the world. We collaborated with about 40 authors, and we have covered countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, France, Italy," Lepadatu said.

Lepadatu and Janoski’s book was awarded the 2021 Best Book Award by the International Lean Six Sigma Institute in Cambridge, UK.

“Cambridge University Press, one of the top presses in the world, really loved our project because of its interdisciplinary nature and because we're trying to create a dialogue between disciplines that do not always talk to each other: management, engineering and the social sciences,” she said. “I am thrilled of this recognition. You don't get an international award every day.”

Lepadatu and her research partner have been invited to receive the award in this year’s International Lean Six Sigma conference in October 2021.

Darina Lepadatu is starting a new role as President of the Faculty Senate at Kennesaw State. She hopes to use her background in organizational sociology to further improve communication and collaboration between faculty and the university administration, students and staff.

--written by Jhordan John