Teaching Lean Principles in Nonmanufacturing Settings Using a Computer Equipment Order Quotation Administrative Process

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As organizations continue to expand their implementation of Lean practices, business schools and corporate training organizations have developed numerous games and simulations aimed at teaching Lean concepts in manufacturing settings. However, simulations have lagged behind the most recent adaptations of Lean outside of the factory in services, and more specifically, in office settings. In this article, we present a Lean simulation game, referred to as “Computer Solutions, Inc.” that provides participants with hands-on experience in applying Lean principles in a nonmanufacturing setting.

The simulation takes place in the order-quote department at “Computer Solutions, Inc.,” a company that specializes in designing customized computer solutions for small businesses. The order-quote process is purely office-based and involves such activities as collecting information, processing information, filling out documents, and forwarding those documents to different parts of the organization. This simulation is implemented as a “pencil-and-paper” exercise that can be performed by students in the classroom.

Our simulation brings some unique benefits that are often missing from current Lean manufacturing-based simulations. It involves multiple rounds of Lean improvements that can span several weeks, providing students a chance to identify wastes and to make a thoughtful application of Lean tools and techniques. Students also get to experience the challenges of group dynamics that are often present in team-based improvement efforts.