Graf, K.-R., Terzidis, K., Ipsilandis P.:
Simulation Training in Logistic Processes Just-in-Time:
An International Experience.
In: New Horizons in Industry, Business and Education
Proceedings of the 4th International Conference
Hrsg: George M. Papadourakis
Heraklion: Technological Educational Institute of Crete 2005, S. 254-262.



Simulation Training in Logistic Processes Just-in-Time:
An International Experience


Karl-Robert Graf

Dept. of Business Informatics, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences

Moltkestr. 30, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany


Kostas Terzidis

Dept. of Information Management, Technological Education Institute of Kavala

65404 Kavala, Greece,


Pandelis Ipsilandis

Dept of Project Management, Technological Education Institute of Larissa,

41110 Larissa, Greece



Abstract: Various business games, many of them computer based, have been proposed and introduced in the last years. This paper describes a manual game simulating the interactions among the various management functions of a production system where participants are confronted with the main problems of implementing logistics to achieve lean production. The aim of the game is the intensification and practical application of knowledge previously gained on the topics of logistics, just-in-time, continuous improvement processes, reengineering, process integration and lean management. At the same time students experience project management concepts and team dynamics. Working in competitive groups participants acquire experience in role identification, communication skills, time, scope and information management. The paper also includes a discussion regarding experiences with groups of different ethnic and educational backgrounds.


Keywords: Simulation Training, Production Management, Logistics, LOGTIME





Simulation training is a learning by doing educational approach that involves the presentation to  the  trainees (students, employees, managers) of a working reprentation of a real situation in the form of an abstract, physical or computer model [8] that has a relevant behavioral similarity to the original system [9]. Trainees, in teams or individually, are asked to make decisions and implement actions according to a set of rules which drive the model and produce results in an effort to achieve given objectives [10]. The results are judged either on their own merit or relative to those achieved by other teams. This competitive training environment has the characteristics of a “game”. Simulation games have been suggested for their visibility, reproductibility, safety, and economy [3]. Simulation games are also used used when there are no possibilities for the students to get experience of the system or situations in the real life; simulation games allow the learners to explore systems where reality is too expensive, complex, dangerous, fast or slow [8]. In education their main purpose is to present complex abstract models of reality in experientally rich and concrete forms. A novel application area for simulation games, is to use them so students get insight about implementation of organizational changes, new processes, and realize the benefits, difficulties, people management and information system needs that come as a consequence of changes.

In the last years various new methodologies and philosophies emerged all of which aim in improving the process management. Just in time (JIT) begun as an a ‘philosophy of continuous and forced inventory supplies driven by the ‘pull’ of the customer’s order’ [4] and extended to a lean production concept for eliminating waste and improving efficiency [2]. Quality improvements are sought by implementing approaches and methodologies like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma. The Balanced Scorecard methodology focuses in defining process objectives and the measurement of both tangible and intangible assets such as the knowledge, effectiveness.

All these methodologies have a common characteristic. They introduce to managers at all levels the philosophy of the need for continuous improvement (CI) a west-world translation [5] of what Japanese management experience calls ‘kaizen’. Bessant et al. [1] look at CI as a particular bundle of routines which can help an organisation to improve what it currently does.

However, possession of the knowledge and information merely, cannot lead to achievement of a high level of process improvements. New training methods are required for diffusing this knowledge to manager by putting them into situations where they must article positions, ideas, arguments and facts they previously learned so that they are convinced about the effect of new organizational schemes or methodologies, realize the complications and sensitivity of potential changes, define skills and team roles, and are finally prepared for real life conditions.



2.    AIMS


The aim of the training method is the intensification and practical application of knowledge previously gained on the study topics of logistics, just-in-time, continuous improvement processes, total quality management, reengineering, process integration and lean management.

For this purpose a simple production model is used, in which participants perform the various management functions of the model production themselves (sales, manufacturing, assembly, quality control etc.). Due to the simplicity of the production model, the individual participant obtains an overview of the main functions and interactions of operations within the firm, and is already able to pinpoint weaknesses after a short time.

Based on the knowledge they have acquired, participants put into practise, step by step, the realisation of logistics measures for lean production in the sense of the KAIZEN philosophy. They recognise the impacts of the measures they have initiated, and gain an impression of meaningful procedures for selection and sequence of realisation. This dismantles their own inhibitions about implementing measures introduced into the reality of management in their own work situation.

Participants are required to work in teams and produce work plans that the whole team understands, and supports creating a corporate like vision of the team. Interpersonal and project management skills are being developed through the sharing of knowledge, the matching of team member’s skills to jobs and functions to be performed and the need to create plans with specific deliverables under time-constraints.





The initial "status quo" represents a function-oriented, traditionally organised manufacturing organisation. The "simulation training" takes place over two to four periods, with groups of 7-12 participants. Each group member represents a business function.

The task of the group is to reorganise the given manufacturing organisation, by applying measures or combinations of measures appropriate to the situation in order to achieve, with minimum use of resources, an improved logistic performance with its delivery characteristics of reliability, short lead times, ability to deliver, consistent quality and high rate of flow. Possible measures are listed in an "action catalogue".

After each planning period the logistics performance for that period is discussed and compared with the results of the previous period and with those of competing groups.





Two products are manufactured in six different variants.

There are 6 production departments. In the initial situation the Prefabrication 1 (P1), the Prefabrication 2 (P2), the Assembly, the Run-in and, Quality control and the Reworking.

Initially manufacturing is according to the job shop production principle and is function-oriented (5 or 6 employees - one in each department).

A worker carrying out a process supplies his or her own capacity unit with raw materials, parts and modules from the warehouse. On completion of the process each worker transfers the processed parts, modules or products in batches to the warehouse.

At the beginning of the initial period there are sufficient purchased parts in stock for the planned production programme. Altogether 10 purchased parts, 21 intermediate products and modules, as well as 6 products are dealt with in the warehouse

Initially, production takes place according to a predetermined production programme, which is the same for all groups to begin with.

Incoming orders are called by the sales department, representing the market, in a predetermined sequence and at predetermined time intervals.


Figure 1:   Initial production layout


The sequence of orders placed within a period is, however, random. They are passed on by the market in a randomly predetermined sequence (which however is not known to the other participants). The sequence and number of orders, and the overall proportions are the same for all participating groups and periods.





After each simulation period, various goal attainment criteria can be measured. The indicators should be determined and evaluated beforehand, and discussed jointly with the group (or groups).

When training time is limited, the following parameters and success indicators can be measured:

  Number of finished products
  Number of products finished
   and delivered on time
  Number of products not
  Number of quality defects
  Ability to deliver
  Production quality
  Average lead time
  Throughput time
  Average delivery time
  Work in progress and stock of
   finished goods
  Working time

If sufficient training time is available, a more comprehensive evaluation of the results for the training period can be carried out. For this, (logistic) performance parameters are determined probably in a balanced scorecard. In a further evaluation, these can be compared with the costs calculated in an Activity Based Costing.





Depending on the participants degree of training, possible measures for the improvement of the predetermined system can be presented to the participants before commencing the second training session. These are

   Process-oriented measures
- parallel processes
- group work
- total quality
- bringing the variance at the end
  of the production process
- bringing the departments
  together in the production
- limiting the intermediate
- minimizing transports

   Control-oriented measures
- from push- to pull principle

    Human oriented measures
- new qualification
- upgrading qualification
- assignment to job position
- increasing competence
- determing new communication







A minimum of 7 and a maximum of 12 participants take part in a group. Two groups can be simultaneously by one moderator (the training master). The ideal size for a group is 9 participants.


First session

The first training session is based on the work structures already described. For all groups, production takes place according to the predetermined function-oriented system and production programme.

The first session ends after delivery of the last ordered products, or after 60 minutes at the latest.

After this the necessary parameters are noted down and the goal attainment indicators are established. The group analyses the results and - possibly from the catalogue of measures that may be provided by the moderator - decides on one or more measures to improve the system (c. 30 -60 minutes).


Further sessions

Before the following sessions each group develops an operative plan which includes the proposed measures and actions with a brief description of the aims in the form of quantifiable expected results.

In the session periods that follow, participants are supposed to continuously improve the original system by introducing appropriate measures.

The course taken by subsequent sessions will depend on what has happened in the first session.

Three sessions are usually operated. The total time for simulation training is usually one day. However, the timing can be telescoped to condense the training into a half-day period. Linked with the relevant theory and accompanied by comprehensive evaluations of the results, the whole training may extend to three days.





"logtime", the haptic simulation model is originated in 1991. In the meantime, the simulation training using the simulation model has been in practical many times, and several 1000 people have become actively acquainted with it.

Statistics on the use of "logtime" show that three main learning outcomes for its use can be distinguished. These aspects are:

  Acquiring a basic knowledge of logistics like process-, control management and human releated measurements

  Training in methods and procedures such as KAIZEN and CIP (continuous improvement process),
Reengineering, QM (Quality Management, Balanced Scorecards, etc.)

  Explaining methods and procedures and their effectiveness in a project start-up

Our experience so far shows, that participants learning during the “logtime” simulation training is enhanced. Important are:

  Pleasant learning

  Importance of group work and team-spirit in realizing objectives

  Improving participants intiutivity, and creativity

  Transparency of the relationship between activities in process management and their objectives

  Experience in developing operating strategies

While Motivation and acceptance in the beginning varies according to the type of participants (students, employees, managers), the differences become disparent during the course of the simulation training.

Teams perform better, when the simulation training rules are transparent and simple.




This simulation training is basically suitable for all target groups wishing to address these topics. For this reason, it has been used in study sessions for apprentices and students, in advanced training leading to a master’s qualification, in open seminars with participants from a great variety of enterprises, and in the introduction of CIP, process organisation and reengineering projects in cross-departmental, cross-hierarchical groups, from apprentice through to works manager level.

Participants can acquire a grasp of the interactions of measures and their impacts very fast and effectively. The active mode of training makes the topics accessible and the results comprehensible. Experience with the simulation model has shown that participants enjoy (“playing”) the training, and are therefore highly concentrated and motivated. Not only empirical surveys, but also experiences of participating groups, have confirmed that knowledge gained in a training situation is absorbed more intensively and remembered longer than with other learning methods. The training makes participants aware of certain problem situations, imparts knowledge and helps to overcome inhibitions about carrying out measures in the future.

When imparting knowledge through the vehicle of simulation training, the complexity of the subject and the complexity of the simulation model structure and training procedure play an important role. The topics are organised in such a way that participants can grasp them within the allotted time-span and achieve the targeted results. Not only the structure of the simulation training, but also the presentation of the model structure and procedure itself is kept to a necessary minimum, so that the participant is not distracted unnecessarily from the underlying theme.

As well as Germany, "logtime" has now been introduced in Belgium, England, France, Greece, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. Then experience shows, that depending on different influencing variables like the mentality or a specific business situation, the participants act in a different way. Such as:

  Perception of quality is different in various countries which affects the design of the processes.

  The Mediterranean countries participants are more communicative, creative and intuitive. They have more an ad hoc approach to solve problems while in Germany teams spend more time in the development of a more detailed process plan, which is followed.

  In Russia team members require more specific instructions than in other countries.


  In all countries teams develop a sense of competition.


Apart from topic-related requirements, such as imparting knowledge about logistics, the simulation training medium itself is an example of logistically acceptable design. Its physical characteristics of volume, weight and number of parts have been kept to a simple minimum. The result is high mobility and low control needs in international use. The whole training material fits into a pilot case. Due to the limited number of components, servicing of the training material is not difficult and can be carried out after a short training session by a third party. Because of its extensive use of symbols, it is possible to provide the simulation model in appropriate language versions.





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[2]     Franzier, G., L., Spekman, R.E., O’Neal, C.R., 1988, Just-in-Time exchange relationships in industrial markets, Journal of Marketing. 52(4), 52-67

[3]     C.S. Greenblat, Designing games and simulations. Sage, London, 1988.

[4]     Heizer, J. and Render, B., 2004, Operations Management. New York: Prentice Hall

[5]     Imai, K., 1987, Kaizen, New York: Random House

[6]     J.O. Riis, (ed) Simulation Games and Learning in Production Management, 3-12. Chapman & Hall, London, 1995.

[7]     V. Ruohomaki, Viepoints on learning and education with simulation games, In

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[9]     M. Shubik, Games for Society, business and war. Towards a theory of gaming. Elsevier, New York, 1975

[10]   R.L. VanSickle, Designing simulation games to teach decision-making skills. Simulation and Games 9 (1978) 413-428.