Teaching Strategic Lean Thinking Through Simulation Gaming
Lean production is the cornerstone of modern manufacturing. Training all employees in lean thinking is critical to the successful implementation of lean production. Training should include basic lean tools plus strategic lean thinking. Several training methods and physical simulations exist for teaching single lean tools, but few methods exist to teach strategic lean thinking, even though it is much harder to master. This paper describes a computer simulation game which teaches lean strategic thinking. The player manages a manufacturing facility with nine processes to manufacture a single product. They have one year to transform the factory from a series of problems and operating losses to profitability. At their disposal are 13 lean tools, of which they select some to implement each month. Students must diagnose the problems, separate root causes from symptoms, and select lean tools which best resolve the root causes of the problems. User-friendly interfaces allow the students to review process and inventory data and select their lean tools. Then the month’s factory performance is presented through animation and numeric results. The game is scored by monthly and yearto- date profit. Learning is demonstrated through improved game scores on different scenarios. The game is housed on a website, making it easy to play in an on-line environment. The game has been used in upper-level engineering courses, but is also suitable for industrial training.