The Game trims fat from supply chain


MIT's Lean Aerospace Initiative members and partners huddled with Textron Systems last summer to develop a fresh approach to understanding and improving the production of Sensor Fuzed Weapons, a Textron product sold to the U.S. Air Force.

Using the Initative's Lean Enterprise Value Business Simulation (otherwise known as the Game), participants in the workshop held at Textron's Wilmington, Mass., facility showcased how a collaborative engagement can benefit all--not just some--of the stakeholders in an enterprise relationship.

The simulation used at the Aug. 24-Sept. 10 workshop is a flexible, game-style model of a complex enterprise. The Game plunges participants into the decisions and strategies necessary for lean improvement throughout the supply chain, not just their own sector. Textron is the first consortium member to use the entire simulation in a workshop involving all stakeholders: Air Force customers, suppliers and Textron.

"The true power of the simulation lies in its integration," said co-facilitator Tom Bednar of Rockwell Collins. "It demonstrates how efficiencies in one functional area do not necessarily translate to improvements to the enterprise. The need for a big-picture view and coordination among all stakeholders within the enterprise is demonstrated very well during the simulation."

Key simulation benefits include the ability to unite stakeholders in a mutually beneficial process, make lean strategies an enterprise priority, accelerate the development of meaningful outcomes, and discover ways to eliminate waste across the enterprise, not just in production.

By the workshop's end, the 30 participants had identified actions to close the gap between current program practices and desired improvements. Goals set in a one- to two-year timeframe resulted in a realistic plan.

"These Value Stream workshops provide the foundation for formulation of a lean implementation strategy that is based on data and linked to customers' needs and expectations. I like to think of this process as providing us fact-based insight so that we are 'lean with a purpose,'" said Jeff Picard, Textron's vice president for lean acceleration.

The Lean Aerospace Intitative at MIT is a research program of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development involving 17 faculty and researchers from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Sloan School in seven collaborative research teams. It also involves hundreds of people in more than 50 corporations and governmental agencies. It was founded in 1993 by the U.S. Air Force, MIT, labor unions and defense aerospace businesses to revolutionize the industry based on the "lean" philosophy of eliminating waste, being responsive to change, focusing on quality and enhancing the effectiveness of the workforce.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 10, 2004 (download PDF).


Topics: Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Business and management

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