Using hands-on simulation to teach lean principles: A comparison and assessment across settings

Sharon Johnson, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Bryan Norman, University of Pittsburgh
Jean Fullerton, Elizabethtown College
Susan Pariseau, Merrimack College


Lean thinking has transformed the way that processes are designed and managed, significantly improving lead times, quality and cost for many organizations. These ideas are being applied to more complex processes, involving supply chain partners, services, and product development processes. Undergraduate students in industrial and other engineering programs often encounter lean ideas in a fragmented and theoretical way, with particular tactics taught in existing courses, rather than from a holistic and applied perspective. We are using a hands-on approach to teaching lean principles based on a physical simulation called Time Wise™, developed by Time Wise Management Systems, where participants assemble clocks using a multi-stage process to get hands-on practice applying lean principles. In this paper, we describe the use of this hands-on approach in three settings: in two different introductory courses in Industrial Engineering (IE), at different schools, and in one Introduction to Engineering course at a third school. We describe and contrast the implementation experience at each school, including specifics about how the materials were included in the courses, the support needed, and faculty preparation and observations. In addition, we present some of our assessment tools, and provide a preliminary analysis of student learning across two settings. Our assessment addresses the extent to which students are able to apply lean principles and use data to support decision-making. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2008.