Modern material handling systems use complex hardware and software to optimize material flow and order processing. As a result, committing to new designs or changes to existing systems can be daunting with uncertain consequences. Do you have enough storage space? How long does it take for the system to recover after a computer failure? Where will the next bottleneck occur if you invest in changes to mitigate the current bottleneck? Fortunately, addressing these types of fictitious questions is one of the strengths of discrete event simulation. Carefully constructed simulation models often provide insights beyond spreadsheet calculations and normally achieved assumptions, highlighting valuable considerations that need to be considered before making design changes. These are some of the most notable benefits of design verification with material handling system simulation.
Check rates and assumptions.
The simulation package provides the ability to link all moving parts and observe their interactions before making any physical changes. That is why it is important to find a material handling equipment supplier like The Slate River Systems Inc. to grow your business. This can provide important learning that is difficult to identify based on design assumptions and calculated rates from independent teams. Key points often focus on identifying existing system bottlenecks, identifying problem areas or unexpected concerns, and highlighting opportunities for improvement.
Test what-if scenarios
Whether you’re testing the impact of new equipment or seeing what your system will look like after five years of aggressive growth forecasting, simulations can help you run what-if scenarios. These scenarios rely heavily on accurate and validated models. This is an important step in ensuring that your model works as expected and reflects reality based on known information. A thorough verification phase improves the accuracy and depth of the information obtained from subsequent experiments. The list of demonstrable alternative scenarios is endless and depends on the system you are testing, but here are some common examples:
- Mass production based on growth forecast
- Equipment and personnel changes
- WMS / WCS / WES logic changes
- The volume of new product introductions/acquisitions or mergers
- Equipment upgrades (shorter processing time, lower error rate, variable conveyor speed, etc.)
- Larger storage and buffer capacity
Present visuals, logic, or both
Depending on the purpose of your particular simulation, one of these elements may be more important than the other, or you may not need to include one. The good news is that they can be processed independently, giving the simulator the freedom to tailor the model to the needs of the project. For example, if you need to demonstrate a rigorous design, see flow paths, or validate ergonomic considerations in a 3D environment, you can develop a model that uses only visual features. This is a simple animation with high-quality graphics and high physics accuracy, but without validation or logic testing. You may need to do the opposite. Testing the order agitation algorithm, batch optimization, positioning planning, and other modules in the warehouse software package are often candidates for this level of logic simulation. The strength of this two-way approach between logic and visuals is the ability to connect and extend them. Animations can be developed with computational simulations, and purely logical models can be extended to interact with visual components.
Performance monitoring of all system components
Another highlight of modelling is the ability to create and track performance metrics for all simulated components. These metrics can be configured to track almost any required metric and converted into real-time charts and dashboards for evaluation. Possible indicators include:
- System performance (orders, pallets, cartons, lines, wagons, etc.)
- Use of operators and equipment
- Distribution of working areas
- Request wave plans and active task groups
- Inventory levels over time
- Order end time
- Errors and exceptions
Simulation packages for material handling currently available provide an impressive balance of computing power and robust graphics.