June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.208.1 - 13.208.16
Application of Lean Concepts to the Teaching of Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing organizations, such as Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), are often described through their outward attributes: just-in-time inventory control, kaizen, emphasis on quality-at-the-source, empowered workers and teams, standardized work, etc. We maintain that these visible characteristics of Lean organizations are intended to support the organization as a continuous learning organization. The systems associated with lean are implemented to enhance the learning of the individuals and the organization itself in a drive for continuous improvement. When successfully implemented, these systems establish a problem-solving culture within the organization, where teams and groups continuously learn, adapt, and improve on a daily basis.
In teaching Lean manufacturing in a university setting, educators must teach the content (tools, techniques, and structures) of Lean. Educators should also teach about the culture of lean. If we believe that the structures of lean are effective in enhancing learning in the industry setting and in building a problem-solving culture, then we should consider how these same structures can be translated into the classroom setting. The goal is not only to improve learning, but also to “practice what we preach”. The teaching of a continuous improving lean system curriculum, at its core, is contingent on developing and deploying a well institutionalized, continuous improving, problem solving culture within the classroom. This paper will argue that TMC’s continuous learning lean system is applicable in teaching a lean curriculum at the university college of engineering level.
In the next section, we describe the way in which a lean manufacturing organization is a continuous learning system. This is presented in the context of the “universal continuous learning model” of Fujio Cho during his 1986-1995 startup activities at TMC’s Georgetown, Kentucky facility. In subsequent sections, we consider the four elements of continuous learning systems. For each element, we overview what that element means within an industrial setting, and how those ideas are translated into a classroom setting to support a curriculum for undergraduate and graduate education in Lean manufacturing at the University of Kentucky. Section 6 outlines a Lean manufacturing curriculum as it is implemented at one university. Section 7 concludes with some summary statements.
2. Continuous Learning Systems Theory
Dr. Walter A. Shewhart was the first to define “continuous learning” in a production system when he argued that the three steps in a production process: specification, production, and inspection, must go in a circle rather than a straight line to achieve continuous improving product quality. He further argued, these three steps are better conceptualized as the three steps in the scientific method; that is, specification, production and inspection correspond respectively to “making a hypothesis, carrying out an experiment, and testing the hypothesis”1. Shewhart 1
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