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Guest Post: Problem-Based Learning for SPC

February 15, 2017

bumblauskasToday’s Guest Post comes from Dr. Dan Bumblauskas, who is an assistant professor and the Hamilton/ESP International Fellow for Supply Chain and Logistics Management at the University of Northern Iowa. Dan is also VP at PFC Services, a consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses improve process efficiency. 

If you’re reading this blog I am sure that you, like me, have experimented with and deployed a variety of teaching techniques in OM courses over the years. Today I’d like to share one such initiative I embarked upon a number of years ago: the development of a problem-based learning module for statistical process control (PBL-SPC).  Along with faculty and graduate students from both the colleges of business and education, I developed a web-based simulation in which students immerse themselves in a Frito-Lay factory environment based on Jay, Barry, and Chuck’s cases provided in their textbook.

The motivation for the PBL-SPC was that I found this to be a challenging topic to cover which students often find difficult to relate to and/or boring. Three different poor quality scenarios are provided (crushed chips, stale chips, and poor tasting or nasty chips) and students, as individuals or in teams, must traverse the simulated environment to assess the situation. By “speaking” with the fictitious characters created in the simulation the students get varying perspectives from the manufacturing supervisors for each area of the plant. In addition, some stations have data sets that can be downloaded as MS Excel spreadsheets to be further analyzed using SPC techniques.

Here is the link to the PBL-SPC: where you can access various menu options by hovering over the “Home,” button or clicking on 1 of the 3 scenarios. Under the “Home,” button, you will find the mission statement, production line schematic, staff profiles, an operational overview and a production video produced by Jay and Barry (Pearson) a few years ago.

For more information and materials, such as the team-based rubric created in conjunction with the PBL website, contact me at or 319-273-6793.

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