The Promise of Lean Factory Simulation

One type of guided discovery called the cognitive apprenticeship is the basis for the Lean Factory Simulation exercises. Consider, for example, principle-based tasks— such as work order disposition when late material finally arrives or scrap replacement—which require performers to exercise judgment and flexibility on the job: there's no one correct approach to such tasks, as there is with procedures. To be effective, performers must adjust their approach depending on the context, the issues at hand, the customer, their prior interactions with the customer, and other factors. They must exercise judgment at every turn. For them, each new unplanned event is a problem-solving situation.

Teaching problem-solving has always been more challenging than teaching procedural skills.

Of the four architectures, the guided discovery approach is specifically designed to support this type of learning using cognitive apprenticeship.

A cognitive apprenticeship is designed to build expertise. Chess masters such as the ones who participated in the Simon experiment described earlier have more than 50,000 chess situations stored in their long-term memory. It's estimated that it takes about 10 years of sustained practice to achieve such a store of knowledge. In fact, experts in all fields rely on patterns accumulated in long-term memory through years of experience. How can The LeanMan Simulation Training Kits be used to accelerate the building of expertise?

For hundreds of years, the apprenticeship has been a favored method of training. The guild systems of the Middle Ages formalized the idea of the apprenticeship, and forms of apprenticeship are still in use today, notably in the building trades and crafts. And in all kinds of work settings, the idea of apprenticeship survives in the form of unstructured, on-the-job training. Apprenticeships provide training that's highly relevant and directly transferable to job performance. Apprentices more easily remember the job knowledge and skills they've learned because the learning has taken place in the job setting. With The LeanMan hands-on simulation exercises, each member of your team takes on the role of an apprentice. 

Features of the Lean Simulation Cognitive Apprenticeship

Feature # 1: Situated learning environment
To promote transfer, learning is "situated" in the actual job context as much as possible. Thus, Lean Factory Simulation exercises place learners into a setting typical of the job site. Likewise, the simulation should respond in job-realistic fashion. Thus, the simulation exercise produces a real product – toy wooden cars that roll freely.

Feature # 2: Problem-based learning through guided discovery
Cognitive apprenticeships support the instructional concept that learning occurs through the solution of job-realistic problems. The exercises replicate actual production situations such as nonconforming material, tool fixtures, material totes and picked kits and quality inspection criteria. Learners are given the freedom to access various sources of information about Lean Principles and to take various actions to resolve issues. To manage the workload and assure access to all key knowledge and skills, the exercises are sequenced in progressive stages to allow focus and prevent cognitive overload.

Feature # 3: Scaffolding
The key to learning is to provide resources to aid in the solution of problems. This is management of the "flounder factor" and can be provided through coaching, references, and models of best practices to name a few. Each exercise is provided with Facilitator talking points and notes to guide the presentation of the concepts and focus direction.

Feature # 4: Naturalistic feedback and learning from errors
Typically, learners are allowed to make decisions on improvements to flow and they judge how well they did based on outcomes of the simulation. For example, in the VSM simulation on creating an assembly work cell, feedback sources include the account on WIP, the ON-Time delivery to the customer, the time to handle nonconforming material and make decisions, and the performance change overall in the value stream caused by the point process improvement. The Lean Simulation cognitive apprenticeship is built on the philosophy that judgment errors are opportunities for learning and, unlike in the real shop, they are encouraged.

Feature # 5: Time compression
Although Lean Principles instruction can be provided in the classroom through lectures, the use of the Lean Simulation exercises to compress time and thus experience is a unique strategy to accelerate expertise. There is no substitute for hands-on experience to build expertise, and by compressing experience along with good instructional support, expertise can be built faster. Thus in the Lean Principles training, one week of lecture material is compressed into two hours of simulation.

Feature # 6: Reflection and replay
The real environment may give one the opportunity to retry a problem to see how a different approach would work, but it can be costly. The Lean Simulation cognitive apprenticeship approach encourages reflective practice by allowing for the replay of case studies by trying different options.

Feature # 7: Collaborative learning
Many years of research have shown the benefits of learners working in groups to solve problems collaboratively. In the Lean Simulation cognitive apprenticeship workers are encouraged to test each others understanding of the Lean Principles and to set up a simulation to try out each others ideas. This is an excellent way to implement group learning, and with The LeanMan Lean Factory Simulation Kits the repetitive nature of the product assembly and consistent touch labor provides realistic metrics of actual improvements to flow.