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Feedback on Learning Diary 2. ME 546 - Designing Product Families - IE 546. Timothy W. Simpson Professor of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and Engineering Design The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 USA phone: (814) 863-7136 email:

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Feedback on Learning Diary 2

ME 546 - Designing Product Families - IE 546

Timothy W. Simpson

Professor of Mechanical & Industrial

Engineering and Engineering Design

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802 USA

phone: (814) 863-7136




grading scale distribution
Grading Scale & Distribution

Score: #1#2

1 – Not impressed 0 0

2 – Okay, not very insightful 8 1

3 – About what I expected 15 22

4 – Exceeded my expectations 8 11

5 – New insight beyond what I had planned 1 2

I am not looking for you to summarize what I covered in lecture – do that only if it is part of your reflection and leads to new insight or ideas

This is a chance for you to take charge of your own learning – most of you have never done this before

example empathy for the workers
Example: Empathy for the Workers
  • If I had to watch the film all by myself without the introductory paper aircraft class, I would not have found the movie as interesting as it felt. After making the paper aircrafts, I actually felt like a Mass Production Worker on daily wages and I could easily relate to their excitement on being paid high wages to do something as easy, but later that excitement turning into resent! The movie was more effective after the practice class than it would have been otherwise.  With the questionnaire while watching the movie, I could see a pattern emerging. I feel I could have actually got more out of the questionnaire if I had actually went through all the questions before watching the movie as I would then know for sure what I should exactly have been waiting to watch instead of looking into it later on. Being more of a listener than a visual learner, I seem to remember what the narrator was saying rather than the visual depictions.  The following class where we first examined our airplane manufacturing with numbers and charts were also very informative as we saw how the different groups were able to work with what they had in their limited time. The photographs were also a good idea as everyone seemed curious to know what the others were up to and everyone was looking out to see the moments they were captured in! Feeling that you belong to a class is something important and makes you feel like being in class – you don’t see people giving excuses even if the class is so early in the morning! 
example empathy for the worker
Example: Empathy for the Worker
  • The in-class activity of paper airplanes was quite a shock at first. I was wondering what I am doing because I thought that making paper airplanes looked silly exercise that will be played in elementary school. … I examined the patterns of the paper in detail. The pattern was not symmetric in the paper and I thought it might have some meaning in that the paper airplane will not make a level flight according to the turning pattern. It was adjusted after several test flight and I spend all the time for the adjustment. In the next mass production exercise, my team allocated tasks to each member and the detail pattern did not have meaning anymore. Even if I make it exactly, it does not matter any more. The important thing was the productivity and I should remove the possibility of bottleneck in my task. Well, the result was bad at first but as time goes the test airplanes are fitted to some quality level eventually and we could make it more faster at the end of time. I learned from it that individual influence to the whole process are quite negligible in a sense and felt like I became a simple part of big machine. This kind of feeling was a miserable thing to me and I could understand little more about the feelings of workers in the mass production. It was amazing that I was sympathized by a silly looking paper airplane exercise. I began to understand the purpose of this in-class activity. It was to give us more vivid understanding of what we are learning in this class. At the final revised mass production, … the silly exercise became a competition which demands us more throughputs only. All of us cannot think over other things except the productivity. We are really became a part of machinery. After the activity it gave me a motivation to think over what the mass production is and more about what workers are in the MP system. In the middle of busy process this question looked like a silly thing but it never should be. The relation of human being with productivity should be seriously regarded so that we could make it a win-win game. All the products are for the human after all and we have to take this in consideration all the time when we make a new paradigm. It was the most impressive learning to me in the classes. This in-class activity really worked!
example sequence of lectures
Example: Sequence of Lectures
  • I remember we had already learnt about Craft Production and Mass Production in the 2nd lecture, I was very content after that lecture. It was complete in itself, its smooth and logical steps made it easy to understand how and why craft production shifted to mass production.  Well I did not know that I was in for a big surprise in the next couple of lectures. The airplane building activity (3rd lecture) and the video “On the line” (4th lecture) were fun and entertaining activities for sure, but they served a deeper purpose.  While the 2nd lecture was a routine-everyday lecture, the 3rd lecture gave me a chance to feel and experience what craft and mass production systems were about. How Stress levels differed, it gave me an opportunity to experience what craftsman, worker and industrial engineer go through, since i worked alone first , then in a set system and then was asked to apply brains and design a layout that will ensure the most production , how can the bottle-necks be reduced, etc.  The video in the 4th lecture was from the perspective of different workers, they shared their stories from the mass production era, learning through stories is great too, it helps oneself relate to the subject matter in a better way. When i was watching the video… Also, the sequence of these activities mattered a lot since I could empathize with the workers in the video after being one myself [ even though it was just a short stint].  The point that I am trying to make here is that although the 3rd and 4th lecture were just extensions of the 2nd lecture, they catered to the same topic, but in 3 different ways.  Learn the facts -> feel and experience it yourself -> relate to the people actually involved. This provided a “wholesome” learning experience and reinforced the concepts of craft and mass production in my mind.  In the 5th lecture, we could reflect on what we experienced in the 3rd lecture and what we learnt in the 4th , this discussion helped in further reinforcement. Then the task where in we were divided into groups and asked to think  where the MP paradigm breaks down on our own, proved very helpful. 
examples multi sensory learning
Examples: Multi-Sensory Learning
  • From past two week lectures, I have contemplated what the learning is, again. During these two weeks I have experienced three kinds of lecture. First was based on empirical education method. In this class, I had experienced the mass production directly by using folding paper planes on three different ways. It could let me feel the differences between the craft production and mass production instinctively, and also from this I could infer the overall picture of the mass production’s paradigm and why it was needed. However, I did not recognize the detail principle and subtle casual relationship from this lecture method. I just realized the whole construction and motivation of the mass production. …
  • All things considered, I think I have experienced the knowledge through three sensory organs such as the sense of tactile, vision, and auditory. On the folding paper planes I used my sense of touch. Next, by watching the video, my eye was involved. Lastly, I could hear the lecture by using my ear. From these types of education methods I could learn the mass production more efficiently and easier than just the top-down approach, and now I can feel that my knowledge about the mass production is more reliable than any other time. I think I would experience the most efficient learning methods delightfully. I really appreciate your great lecture. I realize many things about what the learning is. Thank you.
example becoming part of the learning process
Example: Becoming Part of the Learning Process
  • At first glance [the airplane activity] seemed straight forward where we now “do” what we had spoken about. As we were going through the assignment it was fun to a certain extent because we were kind of competing and interacting with other class members. At the same time however, in the back of my head I saw the assignment for what it is. … This foresight and realization during the assignment took something away from what we were doing. I had left class thinking that my time could have been used learning something new in the class. Ironically enough I was pleasantly surprised during the next class when we did ended up discussing our activity. I had thought we would simply rehash what we had done before and say “now you have a physical feeling for the craft vs. production line.” Fortunately Dr. Simpson took things a step further which I feel added to the learning process substantially. During the activity Dr. Simpson went around and took pictures of each group during each of the three activities. He then added these pictures of each group as he talked us through the activity. Simply adding pictures to his presentation of the class had a number of positive effects. In my opinion taking these pictures and adding them to the presentation engaged the class more while the presentation was going on. We then became part of the lessen Dr. Simpson was presenting rather than being “talked at” about what we had done. I felt a greater sense of owning and being part of the lesson because I saw myself doing each these steps in the production process. I felt as though that was further reinforcement of the lesson which wouldn’t have occurred unless I saw myself and classmates actually doing it. The lesson didn’t stop with simply rehashing what was done but we then took things a step further. We discussed varying ways of setting up a production line where some groups were in an “S” configuration vs. a “U.” Our pictures were even used to explain these various configurations. Instead of simply recapping we were able to transition to new topics such as variations in quality as. Thanks to the questionnaires each individual and group filled out we were also able to look at things from a objective perspective. We compared production results with ground feedback for each group rather than the class as a whole. We were also able to use class feedback to statically show results from the lesson. I feel that the real learning occurred as we molded the class into the assignment and took things to another level. I had thought we would discuss things briefly and move on. Instead we managed to take the assignment and use it to transition to new subject areas and a greater understanding of the initial topic. Normally you are told something, you do it, and then you hear about what you had done. Our work differed because we were taught something, then did it, but now we because part of the process. We used our activity as a further catalyst to engage new more in depth topics and become part of the learning process.
example importance of feedback
Example: Importance of Feedback
  • The first point I would like to make is about the feedback the class has received based on the feedback the class gave to the professor. All too often, professors or lecturers ask for feedback or they have students complete simple in class activities and questionnaires to take up class time (or at least it seems that is their goal). By the professor taking the time to go through the feedback given by students, it shows that what we are doing in the class is important to the professor. By taking the time to display the student responses with the rest of the class, students also know that all work must be taken seriously in the class because not only is the professor going to dissect your work but all of your classmates are going to be able to read and comment on it as well. I must say that I appreciate the time the professor is taking to put together lectures and activities and then also taking the time to follow up on them to drive home the importance of what we do in class and to ultimately help us learn from each other. During the reflection sessions for the feedback questions and responses to in class activity questions, I have learned more from everyone else in the class than I learned from actually answering the questions or doing the activities myself. To give a “for instance”, our airplane manufacturing team did not even think about reorganizing the flow of our production line to increase throughput, quality, and efficiency. Our group focused solely on fixing assembly problems by making sure everyone was on the same page with the same production set up from the initial run. It wasn’t until the reflection session when our group said, “Wow, why didn’t we think of that?”
examples statistics correlations and stress
Examples: Statistics, Correlations, and Stress
  • So far I have read many project reports, case studies for getting some valuable information. Numerical calculation, statistics, and graphs at end of report loose my patience and concentration. But if someone showing your own project statistics along with your own photos, I don’t think anyone will lose concentration. I like the way he has delivered last presentation about my work in previous class. Actually last presentation helps me to understand some more information about another class (Stat 501) I have taken for this semester. I work for three years in manufacturing industries but no one told me before about my stress level while working. I think now every time I work, today’s slide of stress level will click to my mind.
  • The first in-class activity I thought was interesting and a well thought approach towards learning and understanding the nuances of craft and mass production. I never imagined that my kindergarten activities could provide me with such insightful thoughts in Graduate School! One observation that struck me was the high correlation between stress levels between craft and mass production. There was a negative correlation between them which in my opinion provides insights about an individual’s personality. The students who reported high level of stress in mass production and low levels of stress in craft production are the people who prefer to be more precise and accurate in their work. These people have the patience and temperament to wait till they get it right. They are not worried about the big picture and concentrate on satisfying their levels of expectations (precise folds and high quality). They can run 1000s of experiments to achieve it. The other students would who reported exactly opposite stress level as before, in my opinion would be the ones who are focused on getting the job done with reasonable accuracy and as fast as possible. They put more emphasis on the big picture (increase FGI, reasonable quality) and want to get the job done. I wanted to get as many airplanes done and in the box by with reasonable quality that would last one flight! I guess I fall in the latter half.
example more effective use of time
Example: More Effective Use of Time
  • It is said that experiencing is the best way to acquire the materials. It turned to be very true in our class activity to design a paper airplane. As a matter of fact, it was fun rather than reading the materials, in addition, I guess that all students in class should understand the production capacity difference between craft production and mass production. Furthermore, it was a good chance to learn the concept of “bottleneck” and importance of “quality”. I am certain that students from mechanical engineering will never forget the word “bottleneck” for a couple of years even though they did not know the term previously. Lastly, as a worker in designing a paper airplane, each student would understand what the actual workers would feel at working in the mass production factory. However, I came to ask the question by myself; “what is the scope of the materials from designing a paper airplane? The answer is that it is pretty narrow. Perhaps reading the power point slides should cover much broader amount of materials than doing the class activity. Besides, considering the time spent in designing a paper airplane, reading the materials should be more efficient.
example context and teaching styles
Example: Context and Teaching Styles
  • Context is essential for learning. Without it, students amass nothing but random facts and bits of knowledge. … The first few weeks of class have been all about providing context for understanding the mass production paradigm. From the hands-off lectures about the historical role of mass production to the hands-on experience of constructing paper airplanes in a mass production setting, the foundation has been laid for learning about and appreciating the utility of product families in the coming weeks.      I have found the experiential methods used to introduce the course and provide context very effective. I will clearly remember building paper airplanes in an assembly line throughout the semester as we advance to new concepts. I will remember the difficulties in the process (such as having a 41-plane backup along the line) and the advantages of it as well. I also found the historical video we watched in class both interesting and relevant. I will clearly remember the images of factory workers on Ford’s production lines cranking out Model T’s. These experiences are most helpful to me probably because I tend to be a visual, global learner.      While I have enjoyed the first few weeks of class and feel as though they have prepared me for the semester ahead, I have found some of the teaching methods less effective. On days on which only lecture slides were presented, I found my mind wandering. As I look back to these lecture days, I have a hard time remembering the passages of textual information on the slides. However, I also understand that covering this information is important, and this style of presentation might appeal more to verbal learners.      Overall, the first weeks have piqued my interest in how the course will progress and how it will answer many of the questions that have been raised. I am looking forward to expanding my mental library with knowledge of how to design product families!
example a negative to mass production
Example: A Negative to Mass Production
  • Many people in our capitalistic nation seem to ignore the effect of mass production our environment. We get so caught up in wanting to possess many brand new material objects that we ignore the cost to future generations. Every company is out to force their latest and greatest product on you every six months. While we were in paper airplane production I was relatively excited to try to out-produce the other teams and ultimately see how many airplanes our team could manufacture. But then when it comes time dump all of our planes into the recycle bin I am left a bit discouraged in knowing that my work had such a short life cycle. I was also disheartened to realize that I was contributing to a steadily growing landfill. In reality no student should ever need more than one paper airplane to throw around. Obviously this wasn’t the point of the exercise but it does echo the waste that mass production brings about.