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Teaching Process Improvement Using The Mouse Factory

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Engineering Management Program Design

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1185.1 - 15.1185.11



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Paper Authors

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Douglas Timmer University of Texas, Pan American

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Miguel Gonzalez University of Texas, Pan American

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Connie Borror Arizona State Universtiy

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Douglas Montgomery Arizona State University

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Carmen Pena University of Texas, Pan American

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

Teaching Process Improvement using the Mouse Factory


The American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM)1 defines engineering management as “the art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing and controlling activities which have a technical component.” Quality-related activities are widely accepted as an important field of engineering management. In today’s global and highly competitive business environment, high quality products and services are a necessity. Quality is one method in which organizations compete2. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)3,4 has conducted competency surveys and has repeatedly identified quality as an important competency gap in manufacturing.

This paper will present a method to address the quality competency gap in the use of statistical process control (SPC) to achieve process improvement. Montgomery5 states that SPC is “one of the greatest technological developments of the twenty century because it is based on sound underlying principles, is easy to use, has significant impact, and can be applied to any process.” The major tools of SPC are the histogram or stem-and-leaf plot, check sheet, Pareto chart, cause- and-effect diagram, defect concentration diagram, scatter and control charts. This research will present a method for teaching engineering students the use of SPC tools for process improvement.

Another important gap in engineering education is the pedagogy used to teach quality control and process improvement using SPC in many engineering curriculums. It is the authors’ experiences that most engineering instruction is still conducted in a lecture format. While lecturing is an excellent method of communicating large amounts of information, students are experiencing passive learning and the amount of learning that occurs is often small6. There are many excellent textbooks, such as Montgomery5, that provide explanations and practice problems. However the use of textbook and homework problems stress the categories of knowledge, comprehension and application in Bloom’s Taxonomy7 of cognitive skills. But this mode of instruction is less likely to emphasize the higher-order cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

This paper will present research on developing and implementing a web-based, active learning module that teaches students the use of SPC tools for process improvement. Learning activities are designed to emphasize higher-order cognitive skills. Results of implementing the learning module in a senior-level Manufacturing Engineering course are provided. Conclusions and future research are presented in the final sections.

Mouse Factory

The Mouse Factory is a web-based simulation of a manufacturing plant for computer mice. There are two major components to the Mouse Factory. The first major component is a (html) website that contains a complete description of the Mouse Factory. Figure 1 shows the plant

Timmer, D., & Gonzalez, M., & Borror, C., & Montgomery, D., & Pena, C. (2010, June), Teaching Process Improvement Using The Mouse Factory Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16187

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