Monday, May 31, 2010

MIT Lego Simulation

I wrote a post on the Dice Game earlier and have found more from MIT Open Courseware. There are a series of lectures available on youtube, one of which is a full-fletched Lean Lego simulation where airplanes are built out of Lego blocks. If you want to experience a Lego game, but don't have the group or kits to work with, you can live vicariously through this video. 

Starting with a review of the benefits of simulation based learning, it touches on a review of lean material and then into plenty of discussion of the simulation, what went wrong, what improvements were made and the different approaches taken by each group. Running at over 30 minutes, the video might be a tad long to show to your own group, but it may be beneficial to see first hand how these games are run, for those that don't have any experience with lean games, or even for those that do!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Standard Pig

The Minnesota state government has a great page of Lean resources, including Standard Pig! This fun exercise is a great way to illustrate the value of Standard Work. Each participant is given a grid and written instructions, or the instructions can be read out to the group. The goal is for everyone to come up with the same drawing at the end based on the instructions. And it's a pig!!

The site is a little slim on the facilitator details for this game, and since I haven't participated in this exercise myself, I imagine that based on the instructions, not everyone will get it exactly right. I can only assume that discussion should follow about how to improve the standard work. Looks like the perfect addition to a small kaizen event.

The site is full of lean resources... check out the following resource page:

Standard Pig can be found using these direct links:

Standard Pig Instructions and Standard Pig Solution

Here's a few more links:

This game has been added to the huge list of free Lean games in the sidebar.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Beer Game

The Beer Game has been around since the 60's, before the advent of the term Lean, but it contains many Lean aspects, including kanban and reducing inventory. Players manage a supply chain of beer brewery, namely the retailer, wholesaler, distributor and factory. Only the retailer knows the customer demand and this is determined by randomly flipping up cards. The lack of communication through the supply chain and fluctuation in demand creates a bullwhip effect amongst the players, until they figure out how to maintain good inventory levels using some form of kanban.

Because of it's age and popularity there are plenty of free resources available and it has spawned off several software versions that you can download or play online for free at the MIT website.

You can find all kinds of information for running your own game here. As well, there's a good slide presentation you can use here.

All this seems a little overly complicated for what I'm looking for. My preference generally is for simpler games to show lean concepts. The online version might be worth a look, though.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

5S Standard Work Video

The hardest parts of a 5S implementation are the 4th and 5th S's, "standardize" and "sustain." Everyone can clean up the place, sort their tools and find good spots for them, but coming up with standards and ways to sustain the effort is more difficult. It's also easier to explain the benefits of a clean workspace, than expounding on the importance of standard work. Here's a good 5S video that focuses on the fourth S. The video describes standards, how important they are to the fire department and how they can be leveraged into different work environments. 

As the narrator states, " Without standards, 5S just becomes a fancy word for housekeeping." I think this video is informative and at 5 minutes is short enough to use as an intro to 5S or as part of a kaizen event.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Kanban System Game

At first glance this kanban game seems a little confusing, but once you understand the spreadsheet, it's surprisingly addictive. The kanban game is an Excel spreadsheet available from, a website that also includes a wealth of Lean information. The game is free, but you have to sign up to the website to get the download. I was hesitant at first, but after playing for an hour, I think it's worth it.

The game simulates the production of 4 different goods. Each turn, a macro will generate the sales of the 4 products and you get to decide what to manufacture. Your constraints are the the size of your kanban buffer, or stock area, and the capacity of the machine. Keeping in mind that each time you switch products, the changeover takes 1 unit of time as well.

As a heijunka student, I immediately tried to level load and produce an equal amount of each product, every day. I soon found out that the fluctuations in demand created conditions where I produced too many of one product and not enough of another. See this chart of the buffer size after 50 game turns. You can see a ton of "yellow" and not enough "red" parts.

Realizing that heijunka only works when you know the customer demand and you can average it appropriately, I came up with another technique. Look at the buffer and produce what is needed, ie. kanban! Unfortunately, I gave myself another restricting rule of having to produce at least one of every product. I wanted to level load, but the downtime created by product changes were killing me! A fitting demonstration of the need for fast tool changes or SMED. So the next graph is much better, you can see the buffer remaining steady, with the dip in the middle caused by multiple turns of demand exceeding capacity and manufacturing being hampered by long product changes, or a limit on capacity.

The simulation provides detailed instructions about how to reduce the constraints, giving yourself a progressively harder game. I tried one more time at the hardest setting and started to get into the groove. I produced only 2 or 3 products each turn, focusing on the products with the lowest levels in the stock area. By the end of it, I didn't even look at the demand each turn, only the buffers. Just like you are supposed to do with kanban!

From a facilitation perspective, it might be a little dry to go through this with a group, but as a solo experience, I was surprised at how attached I became to my virtual spreadsheet!

The game is available here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Making Pamphlets: Kanban Game

I've been searching the internet for more kanban related training tools and came across this game at Entitled Making Pamphlets: Kanban Game, the simulation demonstrates lean techniques with the making of promotional brochures for a holiday resort. Clocking in at 1 hr and using simple office supplies, it seems to be an excellent simulation for a lean office environment.
The supplies required are as follows:

  • Color paper: 4 different colors (20 pages or each color per team)

  • Glue sticks: 2 per team

  • Scissors: 2 pairs per team

  • Envelopes: 2 different sizes or colors (20 of each per team)

  • Color pencils: 1 set per team

  • Masking tape: 1 per team

  • Post-its: 3 different colors per team

  • Misc stickers (optional)

  • These types of games are best with teams, so that they can compete against and learn from each other. The game does assume some knowledge of kanban boards, so some research or additional training would be required on that front. I'm currently involved in a kanban implementation and I'm looking for a simple game that shows the movement of kanban cards. This game is perfect. I just have to figure out the best way to demonstrate use of the board for people that have no prior knowledge.

    Update: This game seems to have disappeared from the tastycupcakes site, but there's a similar game called "We're having a Party", that involves making invitations for a party. Still using simple office supplies, it also explores the batch and queue vs single piece flow processes.

    Here's another detailed description of the "Making Pamplets" game.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Kanban Training Video

    The Sailboat Company of Naples kanban video. This video illustrates the main principles of kanban and how each process pull from the previous one, using production of sailboats as an example. The demonstration uses simple visual management of inventory, rather than kanban cards on a batch board. I am currently introducing kanban at my workplace, so this video is perfect for training the basics of kanban and showing the benefits of a pull system. I just need to find a video to show how the cards move around in a kanban card loop.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Lean Lego Simulation

    Another institution of higher learning has a great simulation to demonstrate Lean principles. The University of St. Andrews in Scotland has come up with this Lean game which uses three types of common Lego blocks to make six different objects for the customer. The customer gets to pick from a catalogue of these products, which are built at two stations. The best part of the game is that you get to make Lego animals! Most simulations use cars or other mechanical devices, but I love the fact that the choices include a duck robot.

    Look at that cute horse! A great game with a touch of humour. Because the processes are not linked, it does lack a little of the bottleneck / theory of constraints aspect of Lean, but their are plenty of opportunities to improve the process. In fact, I expect that the team would be able to come up with two linked subassembly stations as a kaizen, instead of two stand alone stations. 

    The .pdf for the game includes instructions for all the stations. It is ready to go. All you need is the Lego blocks or equivalent. 

    Here is an example of the instructions for one of the build stations:

    The cumbersome order forms are another place to focus some improvement activities, but they also serve to track the time from order to receive, as the customer has to keep track of this info on the sheet.

    Here's a link to the .pdf file:

    More Lean resources can be found on the St. Andrews Resources for Change website.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    MIT Dice Game

    Browsing through the MIT OpenCourseWare, I came across the details of a variability simulation otherwise known as the Dice Game. There is a ton of great stuff on the MIT site and I could spend a few days sifting through the info. This game teaches "the impact that variability has on process performance." As a trained six sigma blackbelt, I am interested in how they use the dice to simulate a process. They also throw in a lean discussion of takt time, cycle time and WIP, so this is an all-encompassing package, perfect for a lean-six sigma group.

    Here's the flow:

    As you can see, the "process" is to pass plastic chips from one station to the next. Every day, or game turn, each operator rolls a die to determine how many chips to pass. They are passed simultaneously to prevent passing of the same chip down the line in one day. As can be predicted, the flow isn't exactly even from station to station. There's some fascinating graphs showing a computer simulation of over 200 game turns, and what happens when you reduce the variation using only 3's and 4's from the die rolls, or reducing the variability of the demand.

    There seems to be more than enough information here to carry out this experiment with your group. The main page for the courseware is located here. You can find the Dice Game in the Day 3, subsection 3.2, where you can also find instructions for the computer simulation which is an Excel spreadsheet, also included.

    Note: Edited this post May 3, 2014 to fix broken links.