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A Metric-based, Hands-on Quality and Productivity Improvement Simulation Involving Lean and Sigma Concepts For First-year Engineering Lab Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Improving IE Course Content

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Engineering Economy, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.66.1 - 25.66.21



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Paper Authors


Yosef S. Allam Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Orcid 16x16

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Yosef Allam is an Assistant Professor in the Freshman Engineering Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He graduated from the Ohio State University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial and systems engineering and a Ph.D. in engineering education. Allam’s interests are in spatial visualization, the use of learning management systems for large-sample educational research studies, curriculum development, and fulfilling the needs of an integrated, multi-disciplinary first-year engineering educational environment through the use of collaborative learning, problem-based and project-based learning, classroom interaction, and multiple representations of concepts.

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Scott Sink Ohio State University

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Scott Sink, Ph.D., P.E., teaches in industrial and systems engineering from the Ohio State University. He is Director, LeanSigma Certification, College of Engineering, Integrated Systems Engineering, the Ohio State University. He was VP, Business Process Improvement and Reengineering, at MDS and ESI, Toronto, 1997-2007, and [rofessor, ISE, and Director, the Virginia Quality and Productivity Center, Virginia Tech, 1984-1997. He was also Associate Professor, IEM, and Director, Oklahoma Productivity Center, Oklahoma State University, 1978-1984, and Service Systems Engineer, Eastman Kodak, 1973-1976.

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Joseph M. Cerrato Ohio State University

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Joseph M. Cerrato received his M.S. and his B.S. at the Ohio State University in industrial and systems engineering, where he was a Graduate Teaching Assistant for freshman engineering and Integrated Systems Engineering Lean Six Sigma program. Cerrato currently works in industry as a Continuous Improvement Manager for Kahiki Foods.

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John A. Merrill Ohio State University

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John A. Merrill is the Director for the First-Year Engineering program at the Ohio State University College of Engineering, and has served in this capacity for 10 years. As part of the Engineering Education Innovation Center, the First-Year program serves approximately 1,800 students annually in courses organized to ensure student success through rigorous academics in a team-based environment. His responsibilities include operations, faculty recruiting, curriculum management, student retention, and program assessment. Merrill received his Ph.D. in instructional design and technology from the Ohio State University in 1985, and has an extensive background in public education, corporate training, and contract research. He has made frequent presentations at conferences held by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and its affiliate conference Frontiers in Education (FIE). He is part of the research team that was recently awarded an NSF grant to study strategies for maximizing success among students with learning disabilities. Merrill currently serves as an advisor for Engineers for Community Service (ECOS), a student-run organization at Ohio State. He teaches a service-learning course for engineering students, which also involves traveling to Honduras with his students over spring break to implement projects on behalf of a rural orphanage and vocational school. He is a two-time recipient of the College of Engineering’s Boyer Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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A Metric-Based, Hands-On Quality and Productivity Improvement Simulation Involving Lean and Sigma Concepts For First-Year Engineering Lab StudentsThe [Department Name] at [Institution Name] offers incoming engineering students a choice of atwo-course Fundamentals of Engineering standard track, a two-course Fundamentals ofEngineering for Scholars track featuring students in a living/learning community, and a three-course Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors track. All three of these course sequencesfeature integrated curricula and activities that cover engineering graphics and computer-aideddesign (CAD), problem solving through computer programming, oral and written technicalcommunications, hands-on, active lab sessions that sample various disciplines in engineering,and a term-length, cornerstone design-build project. The hands-on labs feature topics coveredover one to two lab sessions in the first terms, preceding one of six possible term-lengthcornerstone design-build projects in the final term of each of the course sequences.The hands-on labs are regularly replaced and updated to keep curricula and activities currentwith modern engineering trends and challenges. Recent new labs in standard and Scholars tracksfeature a focus on global and “grand challenge” engineering topics such as sustainability andgreen engineering, including a two-session solar cell lab, a hydrogen fuel cell lab, and a qualityand productivity improvement lab.The quality and productivity lab is approached in three phases. First, students are presentedintroductory material in the regular (non-lab) class period prior to the lab session. Students areintroduced to a typical corporate organizational structure. The importance of engineering andinterdependence of engineering with key organizational and managerial functions is stressed.Students are shown how incremental improvements in efficiency and cost of operations cangreatly affect a company’s profitability. Students are introduced to concepts such as leanpractices, sigma, and how the customer defines value. Students are provided with an overviewof sequential production systems, terminology and upcoming lab logistics. Students are thenassigned roles for the production simulation and complete a pre-lab exercise to reinforce roles,terminology, and concepts.The hands-on lab session comprises the second phase of the quality and productivity curriculum.At the start of the lab period, students immediately assume their roles in one of two competingvalue-adding organizations or as the organizations’ customers. The mock organizations producea real product with six variants. Students run the line in this relatively inefficient default setupand record data. Customers enter orders from an otherwise secret ordering schedule and recordproduct orders that are late, defective, or otherwise incorrect. At the conclusion of the firstproduction run, the collected data is populated into a fully automated scorecard. Students mustconsider the results of key metric calculations in making process improvements through facilitieslayout changes, personnel changes, line balancing, converting from a push to pull system,improving communications, etc. Students are then left on their own for 20 to 30 minutes todeliberate and reorganize their production systems to attain profitability with minimalinterference from instructional staff. After a second production run, data is entered into thescorecard again and key metrics are again calculated. The most profitable company wins thecompetition. The mock organizations are not typically profitable in the first production run.Production lines improve in the second run. A majority of lines also turn some profit by thesecond production run.In the third and final phase of the quality and productivity lab, students complete a teamtechnical writing assignment where they must report on the results of the lab and discuss how theproduction system could be further improved. Students create visual aids representing the layoutand performance of the lines. Students are challenged to discuss hypothetical situations to gaugethe depth of their understanding of quality, productivity, lean, and sigma concepts.Survey feedback from students indicates that students find the lab activity favorable and arehappy to be actively doing and problem solving with peers. Some concerns from running thequality and productivity lab activities include the depth of instructional staff training required onproduction systems concepts for those lacking industrial engineering backgrounds, lab setup andparts procurement for the product assemblies, and classroom and lab logistics preparation andmanagement.Limited References, arranged alphabetically:Merrill, J. A. (2002). The role of outcomes assessment in a large-scale first-year engineering environment. Proceedings of the 2002 ABET Conference on Outcomes Assessment.Whitfield, C. A., Freuler, R. J., Allam, Y., & Riter, E. A. (2011). An overview of highly successful first-year engineering cornerstone design projects. International Conference on Engineering Education, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.

Allam, Y. S., & Sink, S., & Cerrato, J. M., & Merrill, J. A. (2012, June), A Metric-based, Hands-on Quality and Productivity Improvement Simulation Involving Lean and Sigma Concepts For First-year Engineering Lab Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20826

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