Development of an Instructional Shop Simulation for Lean Training, 07-9378

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Principal Investigators
Thomas H. Browning
Anthony N. Bowie
Robert L. Rogers
Robert C. Torres
Ricardo A. Laporte
Claire Bartoli
Malachi Wurpts

Inclusive Dates: 01/27/03 - Current

Background - The United States Air Force (USAF) has a dramatic need to improve the performance of their three maintenance depots. The Secretary of the Air Force has sponsored a "Transformation" program to improve responsiveness and reduce cost through process improvements. One of the process improvement strategies, the Lean methodology, is a concept that focuses on reducing or eliminating non-value-added operations in the manufacturing process of a product, thereby reducing its waiting or queue time, which in turn reduces throughput time, work in process, and eventually cost.

This IR&D project investigates a dynamic methodology to demonstrate to shop floor personnel that Lean is a superior technique to the current batch processing method. We also analyze the effectiveness of simulation as a tool to alter behavior, particularly where students are not in favor of making any change.

Approach - To implement the "Transformation," the USAF Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) has published a Concept of Operations that specifies a requirement for Lean "Train the Trainer" training. SwRI pioneered and implemented Lean for a repair environment at the two Air Logistic Centers at Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah and Robins AFB, Georgia. We have strong evidence that current training is ineffective in changing the attitude of shop personnel toward change. Under particularly stressful situations the previously "Leaned" shops revert back to their former batch processing method. Participation by shop floor personnel is absolutely essential to the successful implementation of any change, and this requires a change of attitude.

This IR&D effort will produce a user-friendly instructional simulation model that will demonstrate to shop personnel why the current batch processing methodology is not efficient or cost effective. The student's goals will be the same as they are today; increase throughput, lower cost per unit produced, and reduce pipeline or in-work quantities cost. The student will be provided various choices to improve throughput - including increasing the number workstations to reduce bottlenecks, increasing manpower, and reducing/increasing batch size. Students will begin to understand the relationship between cost, resource allocation, and throughput. Eventually, students will see that producing one unit at a time (the Lean underpinning) is the absolute highest production and least cost option.

As final validation, the instructional simulation will be tested using actual personnel at Hill AFB, Utah. Shop personnel will be interviewed to determine if the simulation is useful and has reasonable fidelity. While this will verify the instructional simulation, the actual benefit to the USAF will not be realized until the repair shop is stressed and does not revert back to their previous practices.

Accomplishments - The team surveyed available commercial training and simulation software packages to determine if these tools could be tailored to meet the requirements of this IR&D effort. The team also investigated current in-house simulation projects to determine the opportunity of software reuse. Existing available commercial tools, closest to meeting the requirements, were industrial engineering software simulations not suited for a variable repair environment. In-house tools also included performance and application differences that precluded use on this project, though we did employ in-house software design processes to develop a preliminary framework for the simulation.

The team is using a rapid prototype design and development process based on formalized learning objectives. Instructional designers working closely with programmers directed the development effort towards initially developing an acceptable graphical animation and user interface. This lesson-based approach to the design provides a better structure and direction than looking at the prototype as an engineering tool.

Programming and simulation development is ongoing with Alpha and Beta testing scheduled for the first quarter of FY04.

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