By the third round of the simulation, Lean principles were employed, balancing the work time between stations and reducing the batch size. Idle workers were no longer idle and contributed to the manufacturing process. The team shipped a part in one minute and four parts within a few minutes.
Buzz Digital users get performance metrics after each round to help them assess how to improve the process.
Students learned as they built Buzz Digital
Students created an educational program that operates like a video game, an application of the game design major that has led many graduates to jobs in business and industry, such as creating simulations in the health care field.
Using open source software, they built the simulation from scratch, first envisioning how it might play, look and sound and then bringing those aspects to life while remaining true to teaching Lean principles.
The process included rigorous user experience testing, including for such things as color blindness and user accessibility, Williams said.
Six students, some for shorter periods than others, worked on the project:
- Steve Datz, of Grafton, a senior computer science major
- Jose Estrada, of Miami, Fla., who graduated in 2021 in game design and development-art
- Zach Gross, of Whitewater, a senior computer science major
- Darcy Hannen, of Chippewa Falls, Master of Fine Arts in design
- Simon Meyer, of Mound, Minn., a senior game design and development-art major
- Lillian Sommer, of New London, a junior computer science major
Hannen oversaw artwork and user experience testing for Buzz Digital. User experience is the focus of Hannen’s MFA studies.
“It was a huge undertaking. For a while it was just Steve and I, he as the lead programmer and me as a designer. We had discussions every day,” said Hannen, who worked up to 25 hours a week on the project. “I would run a test and have to analyze it.”
Hannen learned new skills related to game engines and adapting Agile design thinking to the Lean process.
As they worked on Buzz Digital, students presented the concept at a manufacturing conference and in 2021 to the UW System Board of Regents. “We kept realizing how big it was as it went along,” Hannen said.
Sommer, who is focusing on game design in the computer science program, was a game-play programmer who implemented new features based on Hannen’s testing results.
“It was a lot more advanced than anything I’d worked on before. It put me in a situation where I needed to manage my time. We met weekly so it taught me the workplace experience of working with supervisors,” Sommer said.
She is proud that the team created something playable and educational for users who may not typically play video games.
“People who don’t have tech experience are able to find their groove and interact with it smoothly. The game design industry tends to have an issue with games that are made by people who play games, and people who don’t play games are left out of that. A huge part of the project is minimizing confusion. We did our best to try and eliminate that,” Sommer said.
Work will continue on Buzz Digital to make it even more user friendly. For example, the program could be scaled up to include 20 players. When finalized, it could be deployed to Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers, like UW-Stout’s, around the country.
The Manufacturing Outreach Center used most of an $88,000 online services delivery grant for the project. The grant was through the WCMP, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and MEP Emergency Assistance Program.
UW-Stout’s manufacturing center is part of the Discovery Center, the university’s primary outreach and engagement organization.