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March 10, 2016

Simulation Drives Savings in Design, Construction, Operation and Beyond


Simulation provides companies with unparalleled insight into operations and a unique competitive advantage in the marketplace. Using models allows for replication, investigation and verification of concepts and system scenarios under real-world plant-floor conditions, saving time and money.

On paper, the design looks perfect. The calculations are precise. Overall efficiency is achieved. The team of engineers, many with “been there, done that” experience concludes that it is time to proceed into the construction of their system.

Fast forward. The manufacturing system is built, conveyor is set, engineers are on site and it’s time to power up. But as soon as the system starts running, packages have clogged the system and are even falling onto the floor. It is clear that accumulation is needed in one part of the line, which affects the entire system and leaves operators either waiting or completely overwhelmed.

It is immediately obvious that the system needs adjustments, which means spending thousands, possibly millions, on materials and labor to fix these issues. This is the engineering team’s nightmare.

Decrease Inefficiency with a Click

Although it often happens often on the manufacturing floor, this nightmare can be predicted and avoided with the use of simulation. By testing design, system performance, and confirming the calculations before construction, the system can be adjusted with a click of a mouse. By watching the simulation, the engineering team can explore more than one solution and test several scenarios to see which is best for their strategic goal. System-killer scenarios that happen only on rare occasions can be tested repeatedly without the penalty of real-world cost.

When you design a system, you discover its constraints, examine the calculations, and verify assumptions. The goal is to get the system installed and started in the shortest time using the least expensive method with the highest long-term sustainable efficiency possible.

The use of simulation is a paradigm shift. It allows the project team to do the opposite – break the system and challenge assumptions. By seeing the system from all angles with multiple what-if scenarios before final design, simulation allows the project team to make informed, educated decisions on complex system issues, potentially saving millions.

Quick to Assumptions

It is easy to assume that you need to redesign your entire system because it is inefficient, but what if making a small adjustment could make a significant increase in efficiency? Where should that adjustment happen and what should be done? Simulation can be used to examine your current system’s possibilities before investing in an entirely new system. By investigating these opportunities, small changes may clear the way to meet goals, likely saving both time and money.

Simulation and emulation technology, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and capacity analysis spreadsheets, and line-audit data collection and reporting can help analyze and report on current line or factory performance before even starting the discussion about designing a new system.

People Are Visual

Along with being aware of many solutions and scenarios, simulation allows the system to be more understandable to a larger audience because it is a visual representation of the system. Engineers have many calculations and drawings, which can be confusing. By using simulation, particularly Demo3D, the system can be understood by everyone from executive leadership to marketing to engineers to operators on the plant floor.

Consider language barriers. For international companies with plants across the world using the same systems, the same simulation video can be used to train line operators no matter where they are stationed. A visual depiction of the system collapses these boundaries, helps make the line easier to understand, and saves money on training.

Fixing Versus Innovating

Simulation allows time savings that can directly affect the bottom line. The more time employees and consultants spend on the plant floor addressing an issue that could have been explored through simulation, the more unnecessary overtime and wages are devoted to fixing rather than evolving and innovating.

Most agree that time is much better spent innovating than fixing a preventable issue. Building a simulation also takes time, but the question is, where, when and how should the time be spent to arrive at the innovative stage quicker? Why not spend that time in the comfort of a meeting room rather than running around on a factory floor?

Let’s examine the time it takes to use simulation and the time required to adjust a constructed system without using simulation prior.

Using simulation:

  • Research and qualify firms that offer simulation services
  • Select a firm
  • Collection of data for the current system
  • Create simulation and evaluate several scenarios
  • Find solution and proceed to construct system
  • Diagnose small adjustments

Not using simulation:

  • Collect data and design system
  • Construct system
  • Possibly notice large design issue
  • Diagnose the core of the issue and find best solution for the least amount of money
  • Hire consultants or pay overtime to fix system
  • Purchase new materials and machines
  • Adjust the system to solution
  • Diagnose small adjustments

Clearly, using simulation can save time while developing a new line, but it can also help in the long run. For example, consider growth. Simulation allows for significant planning and finding solutions that can adjust to the growth of your business by assessing many different scenarios. By fixing a line after construction, the project team is forced to find a better solution with what they have, which may not be the best solution overall.

Perhaps you have your system in place, but you would like to see how it works over a longer period of time with all of the real-world applications. Simulation allows you to do something that the real-world does not; you can speed up time while still working as if it were in real time. Minutes become seconds and hours become minutes, saving both time and money.

Insuring Your System

Simulation is like insurance for a manufacturing system, directly protecting multi-million-dollar investments and ensuring that best possible speed to market.

The use of a simulation tool allows the manufacturer to visualize and actually run the new or current production process from end to end. By applying this step in your design process, simulation helps with decisions in space utilization, equipment placement, transportation considerations and overall production efficiency. Simulation provides the ability to address more variables and scenarios without impacting cost or production.

Cost Savings Beyond Your Company

The cost savings within your company are obvious, but simulation can impact the environment as well. The environment? Cost savings? How does simulation play into this? The answer is simply one word: waste. By using simulation, you can avoid using unnecessary materials that may not be used again, therefore wasting money on your end and leaving our environment to deal with it.

Questions to Ask

  • What do I want to learn from the simulation?
  • Do I know enough about the system to create a model?
  • How detailed should the simulation be?
  • When should we start building the model?
  • How many scenarios do I want to test?

Words of Advice

  • Consider using simulation early in the design process. There are many different levels of modeling that can be applied to various phases of the project.
  • Leave enough time to build and use the simulation. Make sure to leave time in your schedule to allow the simulation results to guide your line design.
  • Determine what questions the simulation will answer. Are you planning your conveyor layout? Do you want to examine staffing levels? The questions to be answered will determine which type of modeling is the best fit.
  • Don’t expect the simulation to solve all your problems. You may still have issues with materials or operators – but the simulation will remove system design from the list of variables.
  • Keep the simulation updated throughout the lifecycle of your system. You can use the model again and again to test future improvements to the line.

Would you like specific advice tailored to your system? Contact Bela Jacobson at 678.328.3246 or about how simulation can improve the outcome of your upcoming project.

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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