A simulation imitates the operation of real-world processes or systems with the use of models. The model represents the key behaviors and characteristics of the selected process or system while the simulation represents how the model evolves under different conditions over time.
Simulations are usually computer-based, using a software-generated model to provide support for the decisions of managers and engineers as well as for training purposes. Simulation techniques aid understanding and experimentation, as the models are both visual and interactive.
Simulation systems include discrete event simulation, process simulation, and dynamic simulation. Businesses may use all of these systems across different levels of the organization.
There are a range of advantages to be gained through the use of simulation, including:
1. Less Financial Risk
Simulation is less expensive than real life experimentation. The potential costs of testing theories of real world systems can include those associated with changing to an untested process, hiring staff or even buying new equipment. Simulation allows you to test theories and avoid costly mistakes in real life.
2. Exact Repeated Testing
A simulation allows you to test different theories and innovations time after time against the exact same circumstances. This means you can thoroughly test and compare different ideas without deviation.
3. Examine Long-Term Impacts
A simulation can be created to let you see into the future by accurately modelling the impact of years of use in just a few seconds. This lets you see both short and long-term impacts so you can confidently make informed investment decisions now that can provide benefits years into the future.
4. Gain Insights for Process Improvement
The benefits of simulation are not only realised at the end of a project. Improvements can be integrated throughout an entire process by testing different theories.
5. Assess Random Events
A simulation can also be used to assess random events such as an unexpected staff absence or supply chain issues.
6. Test Non-Standard Distributions
A simulation can take account of changing and non-standard distributions, rather than having to repeat only set parameters. For example, when simulating a supermarket you can input different types of customer who will move through the shop at different speeds. A young businesswoman who is picking up a sandwich will move through the shop differently from an old couple or a mother doing a weekly shop with two children in tow. By taking such changing parameters into account, a simulation can more accurately mimic the real world.
7. Encourages In-Depth Thinking
Even the process of designing a simulation and determining the different parameters can offer solutions. By thinking in-depth about a process or procedure it is possible to come up with solutions or innovations without even using the final simulation.
8. Improve Stakeholder Buy-In
A visual stimulation can also help improve buy-in from partners, associates, and stakeholders. You can visually demonstrate the results of any process changes and how they were achieved, improving engagement with interested parties or even enabling a simulation-based sales pitch.
Any system or process that has a flow of events can be simulated. As a general rule, if you can draw a flowchart of the process, you can simulate it. However, simulation is most effective when applied to processes or equipment that change over time, have variable factors or random inputs. For example, our supermarket from earlier has variable and random factors due to customer use times, requirements and stocks.
Using simulation to model complex and changeable dynamic systems can offer insights that are difficult to gain using other methods.
While simulation can be used to manage processes, procedures and assets, Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom took the notion of simulation further in his 2003 paper, ‘Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?’ He argues that by adding artificial consciousness to simulations, you can blur the lines between reality and simulation, making it difficult to tell if you are living in reality or if you are living in a simulation. This simulation hypothesis argues that, should you become aware that your ‘reality’ was not actually ‘real,’ your memories could be edited by the simulation to once again make you blissfully unaware that you are not actually a real person in the real world!
There are many examples of simulation across industry, entertainment, education, and more. Here are a few notable examples:
Simulation allows the characteristics of a real vehicle to be replicated in a virtual environment, so that the driver feels as if they are sitting in a real car. Different scenarios can be mimicked so that the driver has a fully immersive experience. These type of simulators can help train both new and experienced drivers, offering a route to teach driving skills that can reduce maintenance and fuel costs and ensure the safety of the drivers themselves.
Simulation can be applied to biomechanics to create models of human or animal anatomical structures in order to study their function and design medical treatments and devices. Biomechanics simulation can also be used to study sports performance, simulate surgical procedures, and assess joint loads. An additional example is neuromechanical simulation that unites neural network simulation with biomechanics to test hypotheses in a virtual environment.
City and Urban Planning
Simulation can be used to design new cities and urban environments as well as to test how existing urban areas can evolve as a result of policy decisions. This includes city infrastructure and traffic flow among other potential models.
Digital Lifecycle Design
Simulations can assist with product design, allowing digital prototyping and testing to create better performing products with a shorter time-to-market, while also assessing the lifecycle of the finished product.
Simulations can replicate emergency situations, to help with disaster preparedness.This includes training and designing responses to events such as natural disasters, pandemics or terrorist attacks. Responses can be tracked and assessed through the simulation, highlighting potential problems and areas where more training may be required for responders, as well as ensuring any mistakes are made in a safe environment ahead of any real life event.
Economics and Finance
Economics, macroeconomics and finance also benefit from simulations. A mathematical model of the economy can, for example, be tested using historical data as a proxy for the actual economy. This can be used to assess inflation, unemployment, balance of trade and budgets.Elsewhere, simulations can replicate the stock exchange or be used to test financial models. Banks also use simulations to replicate payment and securities settlement systems.
Simulation is widely used for engineering systems to imitate operations and functions of equipment, processes and procedures. Engineering simulations can combine mathematical models and computer-assisted simulation for design or improvement of existing processes.
Simulation can be used to analyse virtual products and working environments incorporating an anthropometric virtual representation of the human, also known as a mannequin or Digital Human Model (DHM). These DHMs can mimic the performance and capabilities of humans in simulated environments. This type of simulation has applications ranging from assembly lines to disaster management and video gaming to waste collection.
Flight simulators have been used for years to train new pilots in a safe environment. This not only allows pilots to be assessed safely, but can also test instrument failures and other problems without risking the pilot, the instructor or the aircraft. You can also easily repeat the exact same scenarios, such as approaching a runway to land, under different conditions, not to mention saving fuel and other costs compared to actual flying time.
Marine Craft Simulation
Much like flight simulation, it is also possible to simulate working in a ship or submarine. Simulators can include those that mimic the bridge, engine rooms, cargo handling bays, communications or remotely operated vehicles. These are used in training institutions, colleges and navies.
Sometimes referred to as ‘war games,’ military simulations can be used to test out military plans in a virtual environment using computer models. These can also incorporate social and political factors and are used by governments and military organisations around the world.
Simulations have been applied to network and distributed systems to test new algorithms and protocols before they are implemented in live systems. These can be applied to applications including content delivery networks, smart cities and the Internet of Things.
Simulation can be used for project management analysis and training purposes. Whether training managers or analysing the outcomes of different decisions, simulation is frequently conducted with software tools.
Robotics simulations are used to mimic situations that may not be possible to recreate and test in real life due to time, cost or other factors. The results of these tests can then be assessed and transferred to real-life robots.
Production systems can be simulated using methods such as discrete event simulation to assess manufacturing processes, assembly times, machine set-up, and more.
Sales can be simulated to examine the flow of transactions and customer orders as well as costs, labor times, and more.
Satellites and Space
The Kennedy Space Centre used simulation to train space shuttle engineers for launch operations. This would see people interact with a simulated shuttle and ground support equipment. Simulation is also used for satellite navigation tests.
Statistics are widely used as part of sports simulation to predict the outcome of events and the performance of individual sportspeople. Sports simulation can also be used to predict the outcome of games and events as well as for fantasy sports leagues. Biomechanics models can also be used to assist in training, assess fatigue levels and their effect on performance, and more.
Weather forecasting uses simulations based on past data to predict extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes or cyclones.
If you don’t want to waste your time and money, you need to know the simulation first before going into the actual design. How to simulate of sensor is our upcoming mini-course hope you will enjoy that.