For the following exercise the students need appr. 20 hours, including finding and summarizing research papers. The exercise is originally developed by Than Cong Vo, the champion of SimLean. The SimLean game is available at www.simlean.com.
Purposes of this exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to enhance students' understanding of the lean concept in the construction context.
General content of this exercise
The exercise consists of several questions, categorized in three main phases of a construction project
- conceptualization & design,
- planning, and
- execution. (The last construction phase, handover/maintenance, is not simulated in the game, and thus is not included in this exercise).
The students play the role of a contractor, who is awarded a design-bid-build contract. That is to say, students, as a design-bid-build contractor, are mainly requested to simulate the activities in the planning and execution phases.
Before answering the questions below, students should imagine as if they are going to construct a real building project. As usual, in the beginning, clients provide contractors their requirements, specifications and drawings. Although clients are responsible for all designs in design-bid-build projects, the requests and questions in the following section "conceptualization & design phase" will help acquaint students with the game.
(a) Conceptualization & design phase
Read carefully the project description. The project description provides important information regarding budget, workers' productivity, costs and delivery time. Moreover, it also describes conditions that constrain the project. Unfortunately, in this game as well as in practice, information is not always completely and clearly written in one place/document. We have to search for what we need. To check if you have already got necessary information, answer the following questions.
- How many types of material and how many types of workers? Give ONE example of material cost and ONE example of worker's (labor) productivity.
- What are the two methods that a player (as a contractor) can place material orders?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using weather protection?
- If the total amount of a material order is reduced during the execution phase, what is the penalty according to the game instruction?
- If the workers work at 100% efficiency, how do you expect the workers' productivity will increase? Will workers' productivity increase linearly (proportionally)? Provide ONE research paper that supports your arguments.
(b) Planning phase
After understanding the requirements and constraints of the project, students are now going to make a detailed schedule. This is considered the hardest task in the game. The Lean Concept should also be implemented in this phase. One key principle is flow, i.e. avoid interruptions of any kind that lead to waste.
- How do you think the flow principle should be implemented in this project?
- What are possible wastes that you expect to arise in the execution phase? What can we do in the planning phase to eliminate or mitigate the wastes?
- One of the most essential parts in planning process is to figure out the sequences of activities and estimate their durations. Draw a Gantt chart to illustrate the sequences of activities. After drawing your Gantt chart, answer the following questions to reflect your planning process.
- What are the difficulties that prevent you from figuring out the sequences of activities and estimating their durations?
- Did you make any assumption when you arranged activities and calculated durations? Provide at most THREE assumptions that you think are important and explain them.
- According to the Lean concept, planners should make the work-flow as smooth as possible. In other words, we should also avoid buffers between any two activities.
- Is there any possible way to place material order in advance to keep the buffer level low? If yes, please describe the way. If not, what are the obstacles?
(c) Execution phase
Like in real-life construction projects, the student, as a player, should have a plan or schedule in hand before the execution starts. The objective in this phase is to monitor the execution process to make sure the project is on time and under budget. Answer the following questions to reflect your execution process.
- How does worker's motivation affects their performance in this game? Can you find a journal article discussing the significance of workers' motivation in construction projects? Summarize the paper within 500 words.
- Does the execution phase take place corresponding to your plan? Does the execution phase in the game reflect real-life events in real construction projects? Give at least 2 examples for each question to support your answer.
- Besides motivation, list possible factors that affect directly workers' performance in the game. How do they increase or reduce the performances?
4 Key learnings
Summarize (200 words) what you have learned from playing SimLean on running construction projects in a "lean way".