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Lesson 8: Model Building Techniques

There is never only one right way to build a model. Most problems can be approached from many different angles and use different solutions. One of the benefits to simulation is that you can try several approaches to see which gives the best results before actually implementing the changes in your actual process. However, there are some basic steps you should take in order to have the greatest success with the least amount of rework and troubleshooting.

Methodologies

Start small

Some people try to build their entire model with all the detail they can right from the start. Even if you have a good understanding of how your process works, this approach can cause lots of headaches and rework. Even if your real process uses multiple entities, build your initial model with just one entity. It’s much easier to “watch” your simulation run and see trouble spots when there is only one entity to track. Don’t even add resources until you are confident that you flow is correct and entities routing to the proper locations. Don’t worry about times, capacities or quantities at first. Just get the flow working. Then start adding details.

Test as you go

You can save yourself a lot of grief by building a small section of your model, then testing it to make sure you are getting the expected results. If you build large sections, add functionality like resources and action logic, and then test when you’re finished building, you may find yourself with a troubleshooting nightmare. By testing small changes, you will always have a good idea where to look for problems.

Details

Start adding times, capacities, arrival information, etc. If you need multiple entities in your model, start adding them before adding resources and action logic. Then add resources and action logic, testing as you go.

Remember, ProcessModel is an estimating tool that allows you to see trends and the impact of changes to a process. It isn’t intended to be a scheduling, order management, or MRP system. It’s important to make your model reflect reality as much as possible. But if your costs don’t match the real process penny for penny, that doesn’t mean the model is broken or can’t have significant impact on business decisions which can save millions of dollars.

Quick Model Building

Let’s take a closer look at the shape palette. There are 3 basic types of graphical objects: entities, activities, and resources.

Objects in ProcessModel Gallery

To place a shape in the layout window simply left click on the shape you would like to use. You don’t need to drag the shape. Just move your mouse to the location in the layout window where you would like to place the shape and left click your mouse again.

Entities

Close any model you may have open. Click the green ball. Then click on the left side of your layout window to place the ball in your model.

By default, the green ball is an entity. But you may change it to another object type by clicking the Object type field drop down list.

Changing Object Type in ProcessModel

If you would like to change the name of the object, just click it and start typing the new name. Whatever you type will replace the default name. When you’re done, either press the Esc key on your keyboard or click your mouse away from the graphic.

Notice there is a Name field on every Properties Dialog box. The text you type on the graphic will automatically be written to the Name field. The text displayed in the Name field will be name displayed in the output reports. If you would like to have different text on the layout than what shows in the output report, you can edit the Name field in the Properties Dialog box. In general though, it is best to edit object names by clicking on the graphic itself and typing a new name. You may also edit the text on the graphic by right clicking on it and selecting Edit Text or by pressing the F2 key on your keyboard.

Every object name field (also including attributes and variables) must be unique and must start with an alpha character.

You may customize the appearance of the graphics in your model by right clicking on them and selecting from the available options such as Format, Font, and Text Layout.

Activities

You can place shapes on your layout and then manually connect them by drawing each route. However, it is much faster if you use the automatic connection method.

With the green ball already on your layout, click the rectangle process shape in the shape palette. Then hover your mouse over the green ball in your layout. Note how the cursor changes to indicate you will be connecting shapes. Left click your mouse and drag to the right of the green ball.

Entity connected to a process

The system knows that since you were connecting to an entity, the route should be a double headed arrival rather than a single headed routing line.

Left click your mouse away from the Process graphic just placed so the mouse cursor changes back to a pencil pointing to a box. Hover your mouse over Process, click and drag to the right again to place another Process step, automatically connected to the first.

Entity connected to two processes in ProcessModel

Note how the shape names are automatically given unique names by adding a number to the end of the default name.

You may also draw exit routes, or routing lines from one object to another by simply hovering your mouse of the first object, then clicking and dragging to the desired location.

Resources

You may also place automatically connected resources in the same way.

Click the resource icon in the shape palette. Hover your mouse over the object where the resource is to work. Then click and drag away from the object.

Resource connected to an activity

You may also draw your own connector lines by hovering your mouse over the resource, then clicking and dragging to the desired location.

Continue to Case Study 1: Analysis