The best aspect of the case method is the level of interest the discussion commands in class. The best part about Darden, they never want you to lose interest and thus today, we played with Legos.
The Gazogle game took the place of Operations today. In this game, you are tasked with completing a certain number of Gazogles, which is a finished product likely consisting of approximately 10 Lego pieces, stacked in a specific array, four high. Each "manufacturing plant" had 2 customers, 2 procurement, 4 handlers, 4 assemblers, 2 shipping and 2 observers to begin. The tables started in the shape of a diamond and for the first 4 rounds, lasting 1 minute each, workers had to assemble product in a designated order, an ineffective order at that. As the other observer put it, it looked like a spaghetti chart.
The goal of the exercise was to make the exact demand from the customers, which changed each minute. After the first round (approx. 4 min), changes to the production line/order could be made with minimal boundaries (including firing people) to increase productivity and cut down on "muda" - non-value-added work. At the end of each round, the customer tallied the completed products, the amount it cost to make the product (ie. 1 worker cost $100) and the cost of the supplies scattered around the production floor (work in progress). This combined created a bottom line profit (loss).
I had the task of observer which was quite entertaining. Of course, on the outside, it looked ridiculous and chaotic, I wonder if it felt that way on the inside. The group I watched missed a few key steps in my opinion. They were far too nice and never fired anyone - sometimes an unfortunate must in a lean system. During Kaizen events, this team was so worried about separate groups that they never combined to find the problems root. They may have even failed to recognize the problem. It seemed to be procurement and shipping, which essentially influences how the parts are distributed. They continued to ignore the fact that someone needed to know how many products were being produced. Finally, the communication never improved and as product designs changed (specific colors required), many people continued to work on the old product instead of the new. Leaving mass confusion to reign.
To some, these buzz words may not make a ton of sense, but just writing this means I'm done with Ops homework for tonight, so I hope you can bare with me and perhaps understand a little of what this was trying to teach. Identifying the muda is not always easy from the inside especially when a set person is not in charge. However, in order for production to be effective, it's a necessary evil and for this reason, consultants have jobs. (Perhaps the last point is simply my interpretation.)