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Process Improvement with Excel

Will an Excel interface speed your process improvement project?

That is a really good question. It depends on what process improvement goal you are using the model to accomplish. Below are my key decision points:

Logic to decide if an interface should be created.

Logic to decide if an interface should be created.

Reasons for interfaces include:

Models used as a sales support tool, where the operator is not trained in ProcessModel.

Repeated analysis using the same model, where the changes are complex.

Importing many arrivals with included routing attributes (which would take days to input manually).

Models provided to managers that want to “play in the mud” without any ProcessModel training.

Isolating the guts of a model so the end user can’t destroy detailed logic.

Making changes to all levels of a hierarchical model from a single page interface.

Changing formulas or distributions, where changing the actual entry could introduce errors.

How difficult is it to Build a ProcessModel Interface?

A basic interface can be developed in about three minutes. That means you can take several factors needing adjustment, link them to ProcessModel and show it working in under three minutes! Really? Yes, really! The speed of development is one of the reasons why creating an interface for a simulation model is so valuable. The return cost to investment ratio for a process improvement project is “off the chart.”

What are some of the things that can be accomplished with a process simulation interface?

Make a distribution easily changeable by anyone. For example, if a percentage changed for 5 known entries, you could develop a simple table that would only allow the percentages to change while showing the value for the associated percentage. The values could be turned into the distribution shown below the example table (also below). ProcessModel would see the distribution but the user would only see the table.

Entry form for a D5 distribution

Entry form for a D5 distribution



The distribution shown above is not difficult to create, but could be a source of errors, frustration and delay if the changes were to be made many times. The table is very simple to understand and has the potential be error proofed.

Add error checking. When the submit button is pressed the entries will be pushed to ProcessModel regardless validity. If the entries are incorrectly formatted then you could introduce errors into many parts of your model in a fraction of a second. Error checking allows every entry to be verified before moving to the import stage. You can even “manager proof” the model;-)

Add menus and dependent entries. Capabilities available in Excel are now at your fingertip, to create menus that only appear when when certain selections are made. This can add many capabilities to your process simulation.

What are the general steps used in building a business process simulation interface?

  1. Prepare a validated model. Make certain all areas of the model work correctly and produce statistically valid results.
  2. Identify what needs to be changed in the simulation model. The easiest way to make changes it to model is to have all changes made through one area. Scenario parameters work well because they are simply text replacements and can be used to change arrivals quantities, time values, distributions, resource quantities, action logic, variables, attributes, etc., etc.
  3. Export Data from ProcessModel to create the ProcessModel Import sheet. This creates the structure of imports into the model from an outside source.
  4. Create your entry form in one of the “ProcessModel interface templates”. The ProcessModel interface templates do all the “heavy lifting” so that you can easily create interfaces for ProcessModel and import data. With the interface template you can create an interface in minutes.
Process simulation interface overview.

Process simulation interface overview.

 Certain types of business process improvement projects benefit from the creation of a quick interface to the simulation model. The interfaces can be created so quickly that there is really no barrier implementation. The new templates are available in the model objects library of version 5.5.

ProcessModel offers a class that teaches the use of the importing templates, how to format information, setting up “foolproof” entry forms and modifying the template. to find out more information about the one day FDI (Fast Data Import) class click on the link below:

ProcessModel FDI Class


One Comment

  1. Rosemary Cooper December 17, 2014 at 1:27 PM - Reply

    ProcessModel is a working tool where you can easily build models of cases of real life. It allows various scenarios through simulation, thus providing a thorough understanding of the phenomena involved.

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