This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Experiential Learning vs Traditional Classroom Lecture for Lean Manufacturing Education




Devall, Tom

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


This study involved Lean Manufacturing (LM) education conducted within a Simulated Factory (SF). Experiential Learning Theory was used to design the training. The purpose of this study was to validate the efficacy of the Experiential Learning (EL) method, with a focus on the Lean Manufacturing (LM) sub-topic of Just-In-Time (JIT). While there are many examples of Experiential Learning (EL) for Lean Manufacturing (LM) education in a Simulated Factory (SF) cited in this study, efficacy validation has relied primarily on qualitative data. Building a Simulated Factory (SF) requires significant investment; therefore, quantitative research to demonstrate the superior efficacy of this approach will be helpful to Lean Manufacturing (LM) educators in justifying investment. Lean Manufacturing (LM) is the 3rd generation of Manufacturing after the Job Shop and Henry Ford's Mass Production System (Black & Phillips, 2013). Lean was coined in the landmark book; “The Machine That Changed the World” to describe the Toyota Production System (Womack et al., 1990, p. 13). The "Father of the Toyota Production System" was Taiichi Ohno, Toyota's Executive Vice President from 1975 to 1978. Ohno spent many years perfecting the Lean system from shop floor supervisor to executive vice president. Lean Manufacturing (LM) is challenging to teach in a traditional classroom environment, which has led to many Simulated Factories (SF) being set up in universities. Manufacturing companies train their employees within their operations. Hands-on experience in a realistic shop floor environment is the most suitable way to internalize lean concepts (Abele et al., 2010). The Lean Manufacturing (LM) sub-topic of Just-In-Time (JIT) is particularly difficult to comprehend in a lecture environment. Taiichi Ohno sent senior managers to supplier locations to teach and implement (JIT) methods. Past teaching attempts failed, and Ohno concluded that Just-In-Time (JIT) must be taught while being implemented at supplier locations. Jim Womack, the author of “The Machine That Changed the World and “Lean Thinking,” stated in the forward of the book “Learning to See” by Rother and Shook that step 4 of the step-by-step lean transformation process described in Chapter 11 of Lean Thinking is the most important step in a company's lean transformation journey and the step most often skipped in the 5-step process. Step 4 involves mapping the entire value stream for all product families. “Learning to See” is a seminal Lean Manufacturing book explaining the Value Stream Mapping Process (Rother et al., 2003). Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a Just-In-Time (JIT) tool used to uncover waste within a manufacturing system. Trainees understand the importance of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) on an intellectual level; however, implementation requires experience for the deep understanding needed for use. This study followed Kolb's experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 1984) to design Just-In-Time (JIT) training within a Simulated Factory (SF) to improve the efficacy of Just-In-Time (JIT) instruction. Four tests were conducted to compare Pre- and Post-test survey results for students with Classroom Lectures and Experiential Learning in a Simulated Factor (CLELSF) vs. students with Classroom Lectures (CL) only. The data indicated improved efficacy for those students engaged in experiential learning within the lab. Distance students without the benefit of the lab experience performed at the same level, likely due to their Adult Learner status. Of the four sub-topic areas of Lean Manufacturing tested, Just-In-Time (JIT) knowledge improved at a greater rate when compared to Jidoka, and Standardization and overall Lean Manufacturing knowledge.