Design for simulation – tips for bringing processes to life for stakeholders
In our Design for Simulation blog series, we’ll show you how taking design elements into consideration can transform simulations and drive stakeholder understanding and engagement.
As a SIMUL8 user, you’ll be well aware of the benefits of building simulations to achieve fast results and gain valuable insight. But what about stakeholders that are making the end decisions?
Utilizing the visual and animated aspect of simulation can be invaluable for helping decision makers to understand the process and highlight factors that are impacting on results. It’s also a great way to generate discussions that will uncover new insights to further enhance the simulation – helping drive engagement, confidence and buy-in for your proposals.
So how can you take full advantage of simulation’s visual and animated features to maximize the impact of your process improvement proposals? Step in some visual aesthetics.
In the first blog post of the Design for Simulation series, we’ll look at how applying design principles can help clearly demonstrate a process so stakeholders aren’t thinking about the simulation, but focusing on the process they want to improve.
Use visual cues to aid understanding
First – what is the main objective of building your simulation and what will help answer your question? Do you want to maximize throughput? Are you working on a new or improved layout for a plant? Do you need to prove investment in new equipment should be taken forward? Asking these types of questions will help shape the focus for the simulation aesthetics.
For example, if finding ways to increase throughput is one of the goals of your simulation, you’ll want to draw attention to any bottlenecks that are constraining the process. To show bottlenecks you could use hotspots, create visual cues with imagery or highlight work items as they progress through the system. Using visual cues for bottlenecks to show work items or resources building up in queues will instantly draw the eye to any part of a process that needs attention.
On-screen charts are another powerful way of conveying what is happening as the simulation progresses, providing valuable context for stakeholders. For example, if we are looking at throughput – on-screen charts could show an increase or decrease at particular times of the day, week or month. This enables them to see if there is a one-off occurrence that isn’t contributing to the issue or whether it’s a problem throughout the process that needs to be resolved.
You can also use visuals to show when a machine or resource becomes unavailable. For example, if you’re simulating a manufacturing plant process and want to show machinery breakdowns or inefficiencies as part of a capital investment plan. This allows stakeholders to understand at a glance where and why the investment is required and see the impact the current situation is having on the process or system.
Again, as with on-screen charts, these visual cues help to provide overall context of when something has changed state and can really help stakeholder understanding of the overall process and the elements which are impacting on results.
Bring your process to life for stakeholders
Those involved in the day-to-day workings of a system will have a deep understanding of the processes involved – but stakeholders and decision makers might not have that same depth of knowledge.
Presenting simulations that resonate with your audience through relatable visuals can be highly valuable. By using relevant icons and imagery, your simulation can take on a form that your stakeholders will instantly recognize and easily understand to help draw out more input and engagement.
This could be as simple as adding a background image, such as a hospital floor plan, to help orientate the user and make the simulation seem immediately familiar to them.
“We developed the simulation using the floor layout schematic. I like to do that with our simulations because when you take it to stakeholders, physicians or administrations, they can all look at that and say ‘this is real’. I experience this every day. It’s not an abstract concept.”
Todd S. Roberts MBA, System Director of Operations Improvement, Memorial Health System
If the process takes place over multiple locations, you could guide stakeholders through the simulation by grouping these processes into simple-to-follow steps.
We recommend using imagery that complements your process and enhances certain aspects of it. It’s also best to stick to one style throughout the simulation, for example, using all flat or all realistic image choices. By choosing one style and using imagery/icons that work well together, your simulations will become more streamlined and allow the key information to come to the forefront.
By enabling your audience relate to the process, they can focus on what is impacting on the question you’re trying to answer. This enables the simulation to become more convincing and compelling than just sharing the end results. Your stakeholders can see the full process behind the results and will have a better appreciation of the considerations made to reach your recommendations.
- Utilize visual cues to highlight the key aspects your simulations are trying to solve
- Add on-screen charts to give overall context of system performance
- Guide stakeholders through the simulation using relatable, consistent visual elements
No matter how simple or complex your process is, your audience should be able to understand and recognize what they see in the simulation. Applying some of these design principles will help you to highlight key information, make the simulation more engaging, improve stakeholder understanding, and ultimately, secure buy-in for your proposal.
In the next Design for Simulation post, we’ll dive into the interactive element of simulation and show you how including these can really take your simulation to the next level of engagement.
Have you shared your simulations using SIMUL8 Studio yet?
With SIMUL8 Studio you can upload, view and easily share your simulations with stakeholders – no matter where they are.