By Jim Romeo
Engineering design is ordinarily an effort that depends on a larger system or process. That system or process may be a manufacturing line, supply chain or some flow where variables are many and undetermined–and the engineered design of a product, equipment or complex process depends on what those variables are.
This is where simulation software comes in. When simulation and modeling are applied to a process or system, risk and probability of failure can be known and controlled, and a design engineer or other process owner can be more expedient in his or her design.
Based in Glasgow, Scotland, SIMUL8 Corp. offers simulation solutions for many different applications and settings, from the shop floor of an auto manufacturing facility to a major healthcare facility. Desktop Engineering recently spoke with Frances Sneddon, chief technology officer of the firm, which was founded in 1994:
DE: Can you tell us a little bit more about SIMUL8 and the applications
FS: SIMUL8 is business process simulation software. With SIMUL8, you can create a visual representation of your business to allow you to experiment with new ideas to improve efficiency and reduce costs–all in a risk-free environment. Think of it like a bird’s eye view of your business or process.
Take, for example, the new $1 million oven the guys on the shop floor say you’ll need to meet demand next year. With SIMUL8, you can see whether the investment is justified, or if there are ways you can do things a little differently with your current setup to meet the demand.
General Motors increased throughput on one of its assembly lines by 5%, by experimenting with some clever maintenance rules using SIMUL8. This is something they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do without stopping the line, changing the entire layout of the factory, and testing out new schedules over a few months. SIMUL8 gave them the freedom to experiment with new layouts, the ability to see the impact in years to come, and the confidence that they would see results in a matter of hours.
DE: Does SIMUL8 develop its products with a niche industry in mind, or are products developed to serve a functional requirement across multiple industries?
FS: SIMUL8 can be applied to any industry; however, custom-built products have been created using SIMUL8 as a base to address a specific need within that industry.
The design of airport security can be pretty crucial to the smooth running of any airport, and we’re currently working with the team at London’s Gatwick Airport–the busiest single-runway airport in the world–to improve the passenger experience there.
By using SIMUL8 to create a visual representation of the security process, the team can experiment with key factors like new layouts for waiting lines, number of X-ray machines, and makeup of staff at peak times to see what setup will reduce bottlenecks for passengers.
This ability to quickly experiment with ideas has led to exciting new initiatives like “family-friendly” lanes that separate business travelers from those heading on vacation–and that keeps everybody happy!
DE: In developing new products and revising existing products, how does SIMUL8 incorporate user feedback?
FS: We have a pretty aggressive development schedule, which means we release a new version of our main product, SIMUL8, each year. This allows us to incorporate user feedback over the year to improve existing features and introduce exciting new ideas from our team. The people who use the product are those who are closest to it, so input from users and our in-house consultants–who deliver various external projects–is key to enhancing the user experience. We also ask our users to nominate features they’d like to see included in the next release, and this has resulted in some great features over the years.
DE: How much training is required for users to be able to use your products to build simulation models and bring about results?
FS: Our aim is for the user to start using the product straight away, and to start seeing results as quickly as possible–so, within the first few hours! Of course, simulations can be as complex as you need them to be, but we believe that the best simulations are built quickly, produce results and develop over time. We have numerous support resources to help users get started on our website at SIMUL8.com.
Jim Romeo is based in Chesapeake, VA. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.