Monday, April 14, 2014

Variations of the Lean Penny Game

The Penny Game is a simple lean game I've written about before. For the low price of 20 cents, you can teach lean. The Penny Game shows how small batches are more efficient using 20 coins.

In the last few months, I've come across a few variations and tweaks of the basic game.

First, Jim Ralston presents a streamlined and updated variation of the Penny game on his blog. He describes it as a "Kool-Aid", meaning this game will quickly win converts to lean! Drink the Kool-Aid and join us!

In Jim's version, there's no change to the actual method. You still flip pennies over in batches and pass them to the next person. But he's made it more relevant to software development by assigning specific roles to each participant. There's a designer, developer, tester and scrum master. And, of course, there's a customer!

This variation shows how easy it is to take a simple game and make it your own. By tweaking the Penny Game descriptions, Jim has made it easier for people in his particular business to drink the lean Kool-Aid. If you're in the software biz, it may be worth your time to download Jim's role diagram below and check out his analysis on his site.

If you're not into software, take a cue from Jim and tweak it to your own process.

Next is something a little more in depth. How about a 173 page slide show of the Penny Game in action?

The slideshare embedded below is perfect for anyone that wants to get a feel for the Penny Game, but doesn't have a group to try it on. After the introductory pages, each slide represents one flip or move of a penny. This way you can scroll through them and see how the game works, step by painstaking step. If you go really fast, it almost looks like it's animated, like a flip book.

Before trying out the Penny Game with your group, it's worth giving this slideshare a quick flip through, and see the difference smaller batches make.

For more lean games and simulations like this, check out my huge page of free lean games!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The 5S Alphabet Game - How fast can you click?

The 5S Alphabet Game - Online Version! Learn basic 5S concepts using this on-line 5S simulator.

If any of you have used the 5S Numbers Game for training (find it here), you'll recognize the basic idea! This is basically an on-line version of the 5S Numbers Game, only with letters!

Thanks to a comment on the 5S Numbers game page by Mo De (sorry it took so long to respond!), I was led to this blog,, where you can find the alphabet version in all it's on-line glory.

The goal of the 5S Alphabet Game is simple: 

Press "Start", then click on the letters in alphabetical order, starting with A and going all the way to Z. as fast as you can!

The catch?

You can only click on the capital letters and they're all jumbled up and mixed with a bunch of small letters and symbols. And, since we all could use a little more stress in our lives, there's a convenient countdown timer ready to shut the whole thing down before you can finish!

How does finding jumbled letters on a page teach 5S concepts?

Just like the 5S Numbers Game, the Alphabet Game works in phases.

  1. Start with the jumbled letters, and see how many you can get. 
  2. The letters are "Sorted" and all extra small letters and symbols are removed. Now it gets a little easier.
  3. The next step finds the letters "Set in Order" and in zones. Once again easier.
  4. Finally, the letters are laid out in alphabetical order ("Standardized") for easy clicking. 
Following proper 5S rules makes it easy to click letters on the Internet!

And there's more! 

After the clicking tests, the 5S game ups the ante, with a "Find the Defect" test. Some letters are removed and you have to figure out which ones. Once again, the jumble reappears. Good luck finding the missing letters until they are all sorted!

Is the 5S Alphabet Game worthwhile?

It's free, so why not!

Apart from playing around with the game myself, I'm having a hard time figuring out how to use it in a training setting. Most 5S training is done out on the factory floor, or in a lunch or boardroom. But perhaps if you have people sitting at a bank of computers it might make sense. Or you could choose a victim to perform in front of the class?

Like all lean games, you cannot just make your group play the game. It needs a good facilitator to explain what 5S is all about, what the game is demonstrating and how it relates to their daily activities. You need to  ask some pointed questions and get some engagement!

Check it out. It's an interesting diversion and you can challenge your friends to see how many letters they can get in each phase!

I've added this to my list of free lean games and simulations.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kanban System at a Medical Device Manufacturer

Interested in how a replenishment kanban system works?

A kanban system is a way to handle inventory using a pull system. A minimal amount of inventory is kept and material is only replenished when it's pulled from the storage location.

A two bin kanban system is the simplest form of kanban. Each part number is stored in two bins. When one bin is used up, the empty box is a signal to the previous process to produce more parts and fill the box. The second box is used while the first one is being replenished. Simple!

I posted a video last year showing a 2-bin system using a gravity flow rack.

The video below is from a medical device manufacturer showing their lean production cell. Kanban is just one part of their process and you can see how they use it to manage their component inventory. The parts are stored in a component supermarket area, where the 2 bin kanban system is demonstrated.

View the embedded video below or watch the video on Youtube:

1. Component Kanban System
Each part box is labeled with the type and quantity of parts and the location where it is stored. When the assembler runs out of parts at the work station, he brings the empty bin to the part storage area and takes a full bin back to his work station. The empty bin is a signal to replenish the storage area with more parts.

2. Lean Work Cell
Each module seems pretty complicated, but there is a unique work cell set up for each one. This allows all parts and tools to be at the assembler's fingertips. Each work station has an online step-by-step work instruction, with pictures to reduce mistakes.

3. Single Piece Flow
After assembly, each module is placed on a rack. There's only room for one of each type, so no overproduction! The team assembler moves on to the next part that the customer needs.

This video is an excellent example of a kanban system in use. If you are implementing kanban, it might be worth viewing this video, or showing it your team to get the ideas flowing. Everyone's process is different, but kanban can be tuned to fit each application.

For more videos like this, check out my huge list of training videos!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bingo! Make your lean presentation interactive with this fun game!

It's time to apply lean thinking to the bingo hall. Ever wonder how you could make a bingo hall more efficient? Me neither, but I'm sure somebody is working on it. And it won't be me because today we're going to do the opposite.

We're going to apply "bingo hall thinking" to lean!

Are your lean training slides a little dry? Are people falling asleep listening to you blabber on about the early days of automotive production? The answer is this great little lean game from Once you introduce "Lean Lingo Bingo" to your group, they will be nailed to every word you say... guaranteed!

Each member of your audience gets a bingo card before you start your presentation. On each card is a series of words related to Lean, in a random "bingo" pattern. Tell your audience to cross off any words that they hear you say. Following standard bingo rules, they must shout out "Bingo!" as soon as they complete a line.

lean word game

Lean Lingo Bingo is a lean word game offered as a free download by You can find the download page here.

From the website:
You hear Lean terms bandied about, so have fun with them! Lean Lingo Bingo is a fun way to promote Lean terms and phrases during training, meetings or even Kaizen Events!

This free download gives you 28 different Lean Lingo Bingo Cards to play with. Just print out the cards, cut in two (two cards per page) and start playing!

5 Reasons why Lean Lingo Bingo is awesome:

  1. Generates intense audience participation during a typically boring training session. Make sure you give the winner a suitable reward...
  2. Forces you, the trainer, to touch on a wide variety of subjects. You can tailor the training to the bingo cards.
  3. Teaches everyone the basic lean vocabulary, so we're all on the same page.
  4. Yelling "Bingo!" wakes up the sleepers.
  5. It's a game and everyone loves games!

Although is a web-based store, you do NOT have to enter any payment information to get this free download. Just add it to your shopping cart and check-out. You just have to enter your email, and Lean Bingo will get sent to your inbox.

I've added this game to the now monstrous list of free lean games and simulations.

Need Bingo supplies to make your own game? Check out these dabbers on Amazon: