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In Business Class, Toys as a Means of Teaching

It's a beautiful afternoon on board the MV Explorer and Professor Tim Laseter's students are busy playing with Legos. It's not what you think – the Legos are a teaching aid, and the students in this Operations Management class are taking part in a simulation. For this class period, they're employees of Gazogle Inc., and their goals are to assemble and deliver finished Lego products to their client, while continuously improving the efficiency of the process. Failure to meet production quotas or delivering defective units are penalties, salaries are paid to every employee, and rent is paid for each work station/table. With two teams competing, the atmosphere is serious, competitive, and, really, quite fun.

Professor Laseter from the Darden School of Business of the Unviersity of Virginia explains the rules of the simulation as students study their raw building materials.
The design is somewhat complex and cannot be changed, however, students are able to change the seating arrangement of workers, placement of tables, placement of blocks on tables, number of people assembling, and design of the assembly process.
Matthew Zinsky, an International Business and Finance Major at the University of Delaware, listens as the group discusses strategies for a more efficient and lean process.
Professor Laseter answers questions between simulations. After each simulation, students are allowed a few minutes to strategize – changing seats, improving processes, and downsizing redundant employees.
Legos are separated based on their shape. In this simulation color does not matter, however, to be accepted, the final products must be shaped perfectly.
These production materials have seen quite a bit of use already.
During early simulations, material handlers deliver partially finished units from one assembler to another. In later simulations, students usually downsize these handlers, saving time and money by seating assemblers next to each other.
Assembly workers concentrate to fulfill the week's quota. Quotas change each week and it is important that students do not produce too many units, or they will be charged warehousing fees.
A student studies the finished design as his team takes part in a strategy meeting. Meetings are short and the pace is frenzied.
A finished unit sits in a pile of raw building materials.
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