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Cardboard simulation: Students experience “lean construction”


In the summer semester of 2019 the Lean Maritime partners Theo Herzog and Holger Segler imparted the idea and methods behind “lean construction” to the students at the Institute of Geotechnical Engineering and Construction Management at the Hamburg University of Technology.

The course is part of the Building Processes module of the Civil Engineering Master’s degree, and consisted of a theoretical lecture and a practical exercise. Through the use of a simulation using cardboard, the theory became tangible to the future civil engineers. Across four stations – logistics, pre-assembly, final assembly and quality assurance – around 25 students experienced how the principles of “takt”, “pull” and “flow” lead to less waste, shorter throughput times, more stable processes and predictable results.

Holger Segler times the throughput in “cardboard production”. Photo: Herzog

Takt, pull and flow in the seminar room

“Such a simulation demonstrates simply what often happens in production plants”, says Segler. “If, for example, logistics is supplying assembly in an uncontrolled way, the costs of the entire production rise – through unnecessary effort in searching, additional storage space, material damage and longer waiting times. If however logistics only delivers what is needed, on a regular basis, the sequence of production processes is maintained and waste is minimised. This effect was experienced within a few hours through the delivery, folding, filling and inspection of the boxes. In four run-throughs, they used different methods, timed the process, changed the sequence, structured the work steps, checked the utilisation and optimised the timings.

Civil engineers of the future

The students benefit from the decades of experience of Herzog and Segler, who instantly recognise waste in a value chain. “In the exercise, we’re folding boxes”, says Segler. “However, later in their professional lives, exactly the same people will be on site as site managers and will have to manage the processes of up to 30 partner companies.” Their theoretical and practical lean construction skills from the summer 2019 semester will certainly help them. At the end of the simulation, the students were able to present an efficiently-controlled value chain with clearly-structured, controlled and cost-optimised production processes after only a few optimisation steps.

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