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Teaching Lean Process Design Using A Discovery Approach

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

What's New in Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1071.1 - 8.1071.12



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Paper Authors

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Saumitra Mishra

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Boris Ramos

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Amy Zeng

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Arthur Gerstenfeld

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Sharon Johnson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Lean Process Design using a Discovery Approach

Sharon A. Johnson, Arthur Gerstenfeld, Amy Z. Zeng, Boris Ramos, Saumitra Mishra

Department of Management Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester, MA 01609


Operations and industrial engineering practice have been transformed over the past 20 years by the principles of lean thinking. Womack and Jones [15] describe lean thinking as an antidote to muda, meaning waste. Lean thinking helps to create a value stream throughout the supply chain by eliminating waste. Lean design is guided by general principles, which are translated into practice using tactics such as creating manufacturing cells. The design process is complicated because in reality not all waste can be eliminated, particularly in complex processes that extend across organizational boundaries. To be effective designers, students need to understand how variability affects process dynamics and to combine this knowledge with analysis of process data.

In this paper, we describe lean laboratory exercises that we developed based on a physical simulation of a clock assembly called TIME WISE. Students taking an introductory course in production system design are required to take the laboratory, which meets weekly for 2.5 hours. Traditional topics covered in the course are linked through the lean concepts of value, flow, demand pull and perfection. The physical simulation that serves as the basis of the lab was developed by MEP-MSI and is used by Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) programs in several states to teach lean principles to employees at small- to medium-size manufacturers. In adopting the simulation to an undergraduate course, we wanted to provide students with more opportunity to ‘discover’ theory, by generating and analyzing data that could be used to support decision-making. The laboratory exercises specifically address: (1) ‘traditional’ manufacturing processes and process variability, (2) problem-solving using a QI-story format, (3) process flow, takt time, and balance, (4) demand pull and visual management, (5) supply chain management, and (6) product customization.

We have offered the laboratory sessions once at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and report here on our initial analysis of the teaching experience and student learning. Our objectives were: (1) to develop students’ ability to apply lean design principles, (2) to develop students’ ability to analyze data, and (3) to increase student understanding of fundamental process dynamics and variability. We used student surveys and an evaluation of student work to assess our success in meeting these objectives. In this paper, we concentrate on the impact on our first objective, the ability to apply lean principles.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education.

Mishra, S., & Ramos, B., & Zeng, A., & Gerstenfeld, A., & Johnson, S. (2003, June), Teaching Lean Process Design Using A Discovery Approach Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11626

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