We’ve just started to have training exercises with members of our different departments to simulate a lean facility versus a traditional manufacturing facility. The results have not only been eye-opening, but have really helped people understand the benefit of moving to lean.
Essentially, we have pulled people together in a mini simulation where they have to build towers out of plastic blocks. The first mode they go through is to set up a receiving line where they follow the current batch build process. They are given “builds”, kits of material to build sub-assemblies similar to traditional manufacturers and then, when the “subs” are completed, they can build them into the towers. All this is given through the standard manufacturing process of gathering parts from a stockroom and bringing them to a mock production area. At the end of 30 minutes, we identify how much money they have made by looking at the amount of towers built and “shipped” vs. the remaining in process material, vs. the amount of “labor” that they put into it, and finally the cost of bad quality. The results are always discouraging.
We then allow them to make whatever changes they want. This usually leads to the traditional manufacturing approach of throwing more people at whatever operation(s) seemed to be lacking. This usually results in hilarious consequences because rather than quieting, the chaos continues to rise.
Finally we re-set their line in a lean, one piece flow operation, and allow them to work off material stores. I don’t want to spoil it, but there are noticeable differences in this method that extend beyond the money. You don’t realize how draining it is on people when they can’t work because they are waiting and how this waiting leads to other problems, including human interaction issues.