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Inside Lean Concepts
Hugh McManus is Senior Special Projects Engineer at Metis Design and was the Associate Director at MIT’s recently concluded Lean Advancement Initiative Educational Network. He creates and disseminates educational and training materials for process improvement in production, engineering, and health care. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed publications and co-authored a book on lean methods in the Aerospace Industry, Lean Enterprise Value. He received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1990, and his SM degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1981.
The lego airplane simulation was originally developed at MIT to illustrate how principles of lean can by applied to many facets of an enterprise, not just the production line itself. It is used at NEU to bring the principles of lean process improvement to life in ways that lectures or reading cannot. The students play the roles of managers of production plants (putting together pieces of the lego plane) or suppliers (picking up and bringing to the table loose legos). The capacity of their operations are determined by simple rules and hourglass timers - skill in lego building is not the determining factor! The students experience the impact of lean tools through a series of structured improvements - first cleaning up and standardizing their individual processes, then rebalancing work between different parts of the production operation and improving communication in the supply chain, and finally redesigning the airplane for lean production, and redesigning the production and supply operations to build the new model airplane using advanced lean principles. A system of financial record keeping (which itself must be “leaned out” to keep from being a burden) determines if the students make money, and allow them to realistically plan the spending of limited improvement budgets. The result is a 10x increase in the number of planes produced, using basically the same resources.
"I really liked the hands on activities and visual support. It really helped me to understand and comprehend the topic better. Also, the simulation was fantastic!! It really tied everything together and was a lot of fun!!" -past student
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