Written by on Thursday May 26th 2011 in What We're Thinking

Are good looking simulations important?

Simulation is about doing an analysis to make an evidence based decision, does this mean that the numerical results are the only important part?

Absolutely not.

In days gone by simulations would take hours to run, so you ran your simulation in a little dark room, then presented your report filled with numbers and charts.

Now simulation is fast, they run in just seconds. (I was once challenged to make a simulation run 25 years in 25 seconds and I did it, well OK SIMUL8 did it, but that’s a whole other blog, why simulations need to be fast!)

Now you build and run your simulations in front of process owners and when you present your findings it’s with a simulation running, not a static report.

This means you need to get buy in from the minute your simulation opens. It’s not necessarily about it having the fanciest graphics ever seen, it’s about telling the story. Although graphically illustrating the story is the best way to engage people, the story should be effective enough, to begin with.

An old simulation I built but still one of my favorites

Can they look at your simulation and easily identify it as their process?
If they can’t you’ll spend most of your time explaining the simulation and trying to make them confident it’s an accurate reflection of their process.

If they can tell it’s their process and get a sense you’ve understood the rules of their system through how it looks, half the battle at least is won.

Provide animated results.
Take advantage of simulation’s USP, providing continuously updated, visual, animated results. No other decision tool can give you this.

When designing your simulation take time to build animation of work centers, have results on screen, use charts and numbers, show queues filling and emptying so bottlenecks can be immediately identified.

All of this will add to the decision process, not detract from it.

Simulation is also about communication

Often just seeing their process laid out visually on one screen prompts discussions and thoughts that provide insight beyond what the actual numbers showed.

You can also use your simulation display to focus the discussion. A simple little trick is to put the question the simulation is answering at the top of the screen.

This way whenever people go off track or try to add detail that doesn’t help make that decision you and everyone else is reminded by the question what you are trying to achieve.

Choose the results you display and the parts of the process you highlight visually to do the same thing.

What do you think, are looks important?