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Learning from a Classroom Manufacturing Exercise


  • Irwin Gray

    () (School of Management, New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, New York 11568)


By performing a hands-on manufacture of a paper product along a fabrication line set up in a classroom, students experience the complexities of an actual production line---how to work with people to construct a smoothly flowing line and analyze and deal with technical changes. In particular, they learn how a change in one position on the line affects the manpower, methods, and machines of the entire line. The quantitative as well as qualitative problems of batch processing, work-in-progress inventory, misutilization of labor, and even elements of product liability become “live concepts” instead of dry exercises from a book. Students in an MBA program with no real-life experiences against which to reflect what they are learning in their classes are able to experience a working fabrication line in all its complexities. They are challenged by having to design their own products and the jigs and fixtures to make them---even when they have no engineering or specialized knowledge. One group, for example, manages to design a production jig for a folding step that other groups have been doing by hand; the jig enables a 57% improvement in production per labor minute. The exercises also demonstrate the costs of idle time: When a batch process is mishandled, worker idle time jumps to 19% of the total time needed to run the batch. This exercise prepares students for future job decisions involving production problems of in-house manufacturing or service operations, off-shore procurement, and quality control.

Suggested Citation

  • Irwin Gray, 2011. "Learning from a Classroom Manufacturing Exercise," INFORMS Transactions on Education, INFORMS, vol. 11(2), pages 77-89, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:orited:v:11:y:2011:i:2:p:77-89

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