When I first heard “Lego Simulation” I imagined some sophisticated software programmed to put lego structures together. It turns out software, graphics, and programming had nothing to do with it!

As I joined my ISE-495a Senior Design Project class on an early Friday morning, I noticed buckets and buckets of lego blocks in the room. We formed teams and the professors began describing the rules of the game. We were to produce lego airplanes for a customer, and the team who meets demand per period with the lowest cost wins.

I have to admit I was pretty hyped up (or as hyped up I could be for an early Friday morning!). I was in charge of the plane’s tail assembly, while others took care of the wings, fuselage, and final assembly. Here’s what my work station looked like:

My assembly plant, complete with warehousing and distribution centers

We were under a lot of time pressure and our customer had demands way beyond our capacity, so it was definitely a challenge! Plus, as our professors moderated the game, they kept adding functionalities and complexities to the rules we played by. Re-engineering the plane suddenly became an option so my team grabbed this opportunity to reduce the bottleneck of our operations and get more planes out to the customer.

Finished products!

Overall, this production-distribution simulation was a great learning experience. Strategically, it took tons of planning and communication between assembly plants to achieve minimum cost and maximum productivity. Lots of relevant lessons learned for sure! It was a great opportunity to use all my ISE knowledge to gain insight.

The Lego Simulation also reminded me of the Beer Distribution Game pioneered by MIT. I played the “beer game” simulation at my internship with Caterpillar Heavy Equipment 2 years ago and it was just as fun and memorable.