Why use Simulation to Improve Processes? | SIMUL8 Simulation Software

Why use SIMUL8 simulation software to improve processes?

A visual, data-driven approach for evaluating and experimenting with business processes - without the cost, risk or impracticality of making changes in the real world.


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What is process simulation?

Process simulation enables anyone to mimic and experiment with business processes in a risk-free, digital environment.

Let’s say we have a problem with long passenger queues at an airport. We can’t just start making changes in real life without first knowing the likely impact. Instead, we can use intuitive software like SIMUL8 to build a digital model that accurately simulates the full process and will allow us to make safe, risk-free changes.

We can incorporate all the process behaviours and constraints into the simulation, including:

  • Passenger volumes arriving to the airport
  • Number of check-in desks
  • Number of security scanners
  • Available departure gates
  • How many employees we have to staff each part of the process
  • Random events like equipment breakdown or staff shortages

By running the simulation, we can quickly see exactly where queues build up in the process. As well as highlighting any issues in the current system, another key benefit of simulation is the ability to then experiment with 'what if' questions and make process changes at no cost or risk to real world operations. In our airport simulation, we could add more staff, introduce self-service desks or even try changing flight schedules to see the impact on passenger queues. Any idea you can think of, you can simulate it and get the answers you need to make strong, confident decisions.

Processes don't have to currently exist to benefit from simulation. Many organizations build simulations for new processes or facilities that are being planned, like a new manufacturing line or hospital department. By simulating these processes, they can uncover any issues before it’s too late to easily fix them!

Benefits of using SIMUL8 for process simulation

Across every industry and vertical, organizations rely on simulation-driven insight to make smarter, confident decisions.


Save time and money

Experimenting in the real world involves time and money. Simulation enables you to plan new processes or test changes to existing ones in a safe, digital environment without cost or risk to current operations.

Make the right decision first time

Simulation enables evidence-based decisions. By comparing different scenarios, you can consider all possible angles and make confident decisions first time.

Plan for uncertainty and reduce risk

With simulation you can run months or years into the future in seconds. Get answers now and plan for different scenarios before it's too late to react.

Visualize proposals and build buy-in

Simulation is visual and animated. It's much more engaging than spreadsheets or presentations and helps demonstrate the impact of your ideas.

Rapidly simulate any business process with SIMUL8

There are different simulation methods that are used to accurately model certain scenarios.

With SIMUL8, you can build simulations that incorporate any of these individual techniques, or even combine them to simulate and improve any type of business processes.


Discrete event simulation

The majority of simulations used to solve business challenges are discrete event simulations (DES).

Discrete event simulations model the behaviour of business processes or systems as a series of separate, defined events – similar to a flow chart. They incorporate work items that are processed by the system (for example, products, parts, people), activities where work takes place on work items, as well as any resources, such as staff or machinery, needed by activities to process work items.

Discrete event simulations are used to analyze the behaviour and performance of a process over time, identify where any issues occur and allow for rapid experimentation of process changes to improve performance.

The processes you'll gain most benefit from simulating are those involving variability, constrained or limited resources and randomness.

For example, you could simulate a manufacturing line to understand where bottlenecks occur. You could then test changes to routing and batching rules, scheduled events like inventory arriving or staffing rotas and even understand the impact of random events like equipment breakdowns.

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Agent-based simulation

Agent-based simulations focus on the behaviour of individual elements or components of a process, like people, vehicles or machinery.

In traditional discrete simulations, work items (for example, people, parts or products) are pulled through the process by the activities or steps involved in the process. By incorporating agent-based simulation, these work items (or agents as they are sometimes known) have the ability to control or change the process or change state based on a set of defined rules.

The common goal of these simulations is to understand how the behaviour or interactions of these individual agents will impact the performance of the overall process or system.

For example, you could simulate how patients will interact with different health services as their condition or disease progresses to help understand the demand on services and associated financial implications.

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Continuous simulation

In some cases, you might have elements that move through a process in a smooth or continuous motion, rather than in separate, discrete steps.

Continuous simulation, also known as System Dynamics, is most commonly used to simulate elements that can be described as having a continuous or smooth motion like liquids or other materials that are best measured in volume rather than discrete units.

For example, you could use continuous simulation to simulate the flow of fluids involved in a manufacturing process or the fuel through tanks and pipes in a refinery.

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Hybrid simulation

Some business processes don’t fit neatly into one particular simulation technique. In these cases, you can use a hybrid simulation approach.

Hybrid simulation enables you to combine different techniques in one simulation and model every aspect of a process to the highest accuracy.

Healthcare is a common industry where using a hybrid approach can transform the accuracy and range of potential decisions that simulations can solve. For example, the progression of disease in an individual is critical to the care they receive, but the rate and way that disease progresses in patients can vary greatly.

Patients can go into sepsis shock at different rates and when they do their treatment must be escalated. We can't replicate their treatment by only modeling the discrete medical process they go through. Equally we can't simulate the impact on staff and generate the most effective treatment process by only looking at the disease progression using agent-based simulation.

This is a perfect example of where a hybrid approach works. You can use agent-based simulation functionality in SIMUL8 called State Charts to simulate the patients and their disease progression. They have probabilities, timings and rates of how their disease will progress. Untreated, their sepsis will develop into shock and even death. The core simulation model can use a discrete event process flow to replicate the treatment process and staffing as the constraints of the system. If the system flow becomes bottlenecked and patients have to wait for services or treatement, they will potentially progress through their disease to death. The health system can then use the simulation to experiment with changes to the system and minimize loss of life.

This combination also works in manufacturing, supply chain, service delivery, or anywhere where you have equipment that degrades over time. For example, we could use a hybrid approach to work out the number of aircraft needed to service all routes whilst minimizing costs. You can incorporate agent aspects by simulating the engines and other critical pieces of equipment as work items, using State Charts to control their current usage state and drive equipment failures and maintenance schedules. This offers an effective way to simulate unplanned and planned maintenance where this will be key constraint on how well the system can perform and the level of spare equipment or aircraft that will be required.

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SIMUL8 case studies

See examples of organizations who have already achieved success with simulation.


Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler improved manufacturing throughput by 39 units and increased revenue by $1,000,000 per day at its Brampton plant.


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Memorial Health System

Memorial Health System improved patient waiting times and ensured the feasibility of a $31 million operating room expansion.


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Virginia DMV

Virginia DMV identified a staffing model to reduce customer waiting times to 20 minutes or less across 74 customer service centres statewide.


Read case study

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