Why Teach Lean Six Sigma with Lego Simulations

blended learning lean lean six sigma simulations and scenarios Oct 03, 2023

(As you go through it, look out for and explore any of the links in green text to understand other related resources)


Lean Six Sigma with Legos is a training method aimed at waste reduction and improving efficiency.

  • The method uses a Lego airplane simulation factory to teach the principles of Lean Six Sigma.
  • Workers are assigned specific tasks, and the process is analyzed using Six Sigma tools to optimize a process.
  • An example simulation resulted in a 65% increase in efficiency between rounds by standardizing processes and making workspace adjustments.
  • The goal is to empower workers to drive continuous improvement in their organizations and save both time and money. 


(Stop here if going through this as part of an introductory lesson.  Additional examples below.)


Teaching Lean Foundational Tools (5S, SMED, Kanban, Flow, Line Balancing, Cell Layout) using a Lego Simulation 


  • Simulation Overview:
    • Phases structured for training: Explaining 5S, Kaizen, and continuous improvement.
    • Emphasis on key metrics: Takt time, cycle time, parts processed, meeting actual demand.
    • Evolutionary phases: Initial disorder leading to organized results, mimicking real improvement scenarios.


  • Phase One Challenges and Observations:
    • Imbalanced work content: Varied tasks causing inefficiencies.
    • One-piece flow concept introduced: Recognizing issues with batch processing.
    • Emphasis on identifying deficiencies and light-hearted engagement for learning.


  • Phase Two Adaptations:
    • Team-driven changes: Alterations to flow based on part requirements.
    • Discussions on sub-assemblies: Caution on their impact and potential drawbacks.
    • Addressing workflow inefficiencies, fixture improvements, and quality control.


  • Phase Three Integration of Lean Principles:
    • Application of Kanban, work balance, and efficient layouts.
    • Emphasis on pull systems, Kanban card utilization, and customer-driven workflow.
    • Achieving improved workflow with reduced work in process, focusing on key metrics.


  • Learning Outcomes:
    • Core teachings encompass eight wastes, Kaizen, 5S, workflow management.
    • Promotes continuous improvement, encourages companies to explore lean methodologies.



Teaching Lean in a Complex Industrial, Supply Chain and Engineering Enterprise through a Lean Airplane Lego Simulation


  • Challenges of Teaching Lean Thinking: Lean Academy employs simulation-based education due to the difficulty of teaching experience-based, context-dependent concepts.
  • Purpose of Simulation: Aims to overcome complexities by providing hands-on experience before the ideas make sense in real-world contexts.
  • Teaching Strategy: Focuses on enhancing comprehension, holistic understanding, and tactile learning through simulation-based education.


Structure of the Simulation

  • LEGO Airplane Construction: Simulates building LEGO airplanes in a legacy system with challenges like unbalanced production, long supply chains, paperwork, and accounting complexities.
  • Defined Simulation Features: Each student follows visual instructions, constrained processes through hourglasses, and a complex paperwork chain mimicking real-world inefficiencies.
  • Accounting System: Incorporates a cash flow system tracking costs, emphasizing the impact of production efficiency on profitability.


Lean Academy Structure

  • Simulation Day: Dedicates a day comprising 12-minute active rounds interspersed with lectures, reflection time, financial analysis, and collaborative learning segments.
  • Educational Objectives: Aims for improved comprehension, financial insights, and a deeper understanding of the iterative nature of improvement processes.


Learning Outcomes

  • Improved Production: Shows enhanced production over the course of the simulation, demonstrating the impact of iterative learning and process improvements.
  • Financial Insights: Reveals that immediate financial gains might not occur during improvement rounds but lay the groundwork for future success.
  • Effectiveness of Game-Based Learning: Demonstrates the effectiveness of game-based learning in retaining information and influencing behavior change in students.


Student Responses and Challenges

  • Student Feedback: Includes requests for more simulation time to internalize information and the recognition of stress during the simulation process.
  • Psychological Effects: Acknowledges stress and potential competition arising from the simulated process, requiring careful management.
  • Flexibility in Learning: Acknowledges the flexibility in the simulation's structure, allowing it to cater to different learning needs and contexts.


Expansion and Adaptation

  • Variants of Simulation: Highlights the possibility of variants focusing on manufacturing, engineering, or specific lessons in transition to production and engineering support.
  • Adoption of Simulation: Discusses how organizations have adopted the simulation for their internal training, emphasizing its dissemination method and available support for adoption.


Simulation Dissemination

  • Dissemination Process: Provides information for adopting the simulation materials and resources, directing inquiries to a specific email for more information.


Teaching Flexibility and Application

  • Application to Different Contexts: Highlights how the simulation can cater to different educational needs, such as teaching engineering processes or focusing solely on manufacturing.
  • Method for Dissemination: Discusses the method for sharing and adopting the simulation materials for organizations interested in using them for their training purposes.


Lean Simulation Applied in Healthcare:

  • Overview:

    • Intended to mirror real clinic processes using a simulated environment.
    • Divided into three modules: learning the simulation, local process improvement, and cross-clinic improvement.
    • Utilizes LEGO patient processing, paperwork, and timers to simulate real clinic scenarios.
    • Focuses on identifying system flaws, addressing process variations, and applying Lean tools for improvement.
    • Encourages iterative improvements and cross-functional collaboration to optimize clinic performance.
  • Simulation Structure:

    • Involves processing LEGO patients through clinic functions like registration, triage, examination, diagnosis, and discharge.
    • Represents system constraints through timers, patient variation using LEGO colors, and dice for unpredictable process variations.
    • Includes external factors such as patient transfers to hospitals due to capacity or equipment limitations.
  • Learning Phases:

    • Initial rounds emphasize learning the simulation, experiencing process frustrations, and applying basic Lean tools for local improvements.
    • Later phases involve structured improvement exercises, value stream mapping, capacity calculations, and brainstorming for process enhancement.
  • Improvement Iterations:

    • Iterative rounds display noticeable but varied improvements at the single clinic level based on implemented ideas.
    • Observes high variation in performance between clinics, prompting the need for cross-functional team collaboration.
    • Final round focuses on executing a refined process without a stabilization round, requiring careful execution and collaboration for success.
  • Key Takeaways:

    • Emphasizes identifying process flaws, applying Lean methodologies, and fostering cross-clinic collaboration to optimize overall clinic performance.


Course Forward:

  • If you liked the idea of Blended Learning, learn here why our Simulation-based Blended Learning programs are a Game-Changer!
  • And if you'd like to go forward with a Simulation-based Blended Learning approach, why not make it easy on yourself?

    • You don’t need to design a whole structure of lessons and Simulation exercises
    • You don't need to buy Lego sets, you don’t need to schedule or plan the events, you don’t have to tie up your CI resources to teach for 8 hours in one day.
    • We do it all for you, and we do it all virtually or in a hybrid setting!
  • Example Belt Course Simulation-based Blended Learning pathways




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