Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lean Cups Game - What's summer without a few cold ones?

The Lean Cups Game is a another simple lean exercise that demonstrates the difference between push and pull production. Teams assemble paper cups and lids into a tray, inserting straws into each cup. The cups are empty, although it would be interesting to run the game with some cold beverages!


The Lean Cups Game assembly. A tray of four.

The Lean Cups Game seems like a pretty cost effective way to complement your lean training, especially if you have access to a fast food joint where you can get all the equipment for free!

How does the Lean Cups Game work?

  1. The first operator puts four cups in a tray.
  2. The next operator places red dots on the cups.
  3. The third operator puts lids on the four cups.
  4. The last operator removes straws from wrappers and puts them in the cups. 
If performed as designed, the last operation should take the longest, producing plenty of inventory upstream. 

Like all good Lean games, the Cups Game has two phases, a push and a pull phase. In the push scenario, the operators are told to work continuously, trying to get as many parts as possible out of each station. Inventory builds up and the flow stalls. You can track the speed of the flow by marking a tray and timing how long it gets through the four stations.

After discussing the horrors of inventory, the team sets up a pull system with only enough space at each station for 4 units. Only when the WIP area is empty, is the previous station allowed to produce again. 

More details on how to run the Lean Cups Game are available in this paper.

Electronic Version

In the above paper, there are links to a computer version of the game, which requires four computers beside each other. Be advised that I haven't tested this, since I'm not the biggest fan of installing random .exe files on my computer. But if you have a greater risk tolerance than me and feel like running the simulation without the physical cups and trays, let me know how it works out. 

The Lean Cups Game is a simple game to illustrate push vs pull. If you can get your hands on the materials, this one looks pretty easy to put together. 


I've added this game to my continuously growing list of lean games and simulations.

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