Kanban game with LEGO served in cups

Here’s a neat little Kanban game with LEGO pieces and cups. It’s simple, but effective. 

There are four stations, with four operators. This video shows an expert crew, following the rules of Kanban. ie. Pull production. Obviously, they’ve played before. When you first run the game, you should be running in batch mode, making tons of inventory, with no regard to whether anyone needs it.

First station – Put blue Lego block in cup and pass to next station.
Second station – Put green Lego block in cup, install lid and pass to next station.
Third station – Colour sticker with marker, peel off and stick to bottom of cup. Pass to next station.
Last station – Inspect and pass to customer.

Simple. I’m not sure what the customer is going to do with these shot glasses of LEGO, but we can assume they are making what the customer wants. Perhaps they’re making drinks at a beach resort for Lego minifigs?

Teach the Kanban rules and run the simulation again. You can see from the video that the operators only build when the station ahead of them takes a part. One piece of WIP between stations and there’s no more build-up and no waste of inventory. The overall lead time decreases and the unbalanced work becomes visible. Time to fix the problems and combine stations.

We did some basic analysis of the game and determined approximate times for each station:

                                                                                 4 Stations – Unbalanced Work

It’s clear from the time study that this is not a perfect process. You could easily combined work to make it more efficient. But we won’t, at least not when running the first phase of this game.

Unbalanced flow is the key to creating a good lean simulation. To demonstrate the power of pull production, you need a bottle neck process, like the labeling station above. During the first run, tell your people to go as fast as possible; that they’ll be individually rewarded for maximum production. Spread them far apart and use people to be “forklifts” between stations.

Invariably tons of work in process will build up between station 2 and 3. You will even get material between station 1 and 2.

This is a great little simulation, perfect for demonstrating Pull Systems.