Tag Archives: Lean Simulations

Learning Lean by Live Simulations

Why bother with the extra expense of a Lean live factory or office simulation?

Live factory simulations have been used  for the last several decades to demonstrate the Lean concepts.  Electronics, clocks, cars, toys, boats, airplanes, electrical connectors,  pens, flashlights have all been popular.  Office simulations to eliminate waste in paperwork/information have also been used. Materials used range from actual products (pens, switches) to more whimsical demonstrations  (Lego assemblies, wooden toys, paper airplanes).

The idea behind all these simulations is to combine classroom learning, through lectures or Power Point presentations, with an actual demonstration of the Lean concepts.  Typically, the workshops are broken into several sections or rounds to represent shifts or days at an assembly operation.

The first round starts  by intentionally demonstrating some of the wastes commonly found in a traditional manufacturing environment.  These inefficiencies are used as talking points for the classroom session.  During the classroom sessions the Lean principles are gradually introduced and practiced during a simulation round.  Quality rejects, amount of product shipped, on-time delivery, and profit/loss are tracked and reviewed after each round.  Subsequent rounds gradually introduce the Lean tools and concepts until the final round representing a Lean Enterprise.

The benefits of Lean including customer satisfaction, waste elimination are demonstrated physically and financially in a way that can be easily understood and applied.  A good facilitator will encourage the students to make the connection between the simulation exercise and their workplace environment.  The workshops are typically presented in skit form to add some levity to the experience.

Because a Lean transformation involves a cultural change, it is essential that everyone in the organization participate in the simulations.  Teamwork and the need for Continuous Improvement are emphasized in the classroom and simulation exercise.

I have participated and facilitated many of these workshops.  I have also, at the client’s request limited the introduction to to Lean to a one or two hour classroom presentation.  In my experience, the latter do not generate the same level of  learning or enthusiasm as in the simulation workshops.  The hands-on experience obtained in the simulation, the facilitator’s ability to relate the simulation to the “real world” experience and the round-to-round factual comparison of the benefits of Lean, in my opinion,  make  simulations a superior method of  preparing an organization for a successful Lean transformation.

Have you had experience in a Lean simulation?  Do you think it is worth the extra time and investment?

It should be noted that workshops typically take a full day. QMA as developed the Zippy Toy Car simulation, a dynamic 4 hour workshop that  in 3 rounds covers the  most important concepts covered in the longer workshops. It is far less disruptive and cost effective. It is designed for in-house delivery, but a Public Workshop is offered periodically.

Enrique Bekerman