Art of Simulation, Resources, Technical Corner

Interview: A SIMUL8 user for nearly 20 years!

banner_logo_header_2Currently working for The Kroger Co., with the fantastic title of ‘Data Munger Guru’, Jim Holtman has been using SIMUL8 for nearly 20 years.  This week he was good enough to speak to me about his experience.  This is just a little excerpt from what we chatted about.

When did you start using SIMUL8?
“I’d been using GPSS before for a simulation of computer systems, then I came across SIMUL8 in 1994.  I needed something to replace GPSS and I had looked at a few products.  It was a good price and did everything I needed, and I’ve been using it ever since.”

So you’ve used SIMUL8 in different companies and industries?
“I was working for Convergys, a cellular phone biller.  We had large transaction systems on computers and I was using SIMUL8 to understand how some of our systems worked.  Now in The Kroger Co. I’m in the Operations Research group and helping them do a lot of their analysis on warehouses, customer traffic in stores and things.”

So you used SIMUL8 before The Kroger Co., did you bring SIMUL8 to The Kroger Co. or were they already using it?

“The Kroger Co.  was already using SIMUL8, that’s how I got my job with them.  I had been retired and active on the SIMUL8 forum, and one of the people I answered a question for was Doug Meiser, from the Operations Research department at The Kroger Co.  He thanked me for my help and said “anytime you’re in Cincinnati I’ll buy you lunch”, and I said “hey I live here!”

“So I had lunch with him on a Friday and went to work for him on the Monday.  I thought it’d be 8-10hours a week and it’s 8-10hours a day!  But it’s great fun and I told him I’ll stay as long as it’s fun!”

How do you use SIMUL8 at Kroger?
“At The Kroger Co. we use a couple of simulations, originally built by Visual8, of our ‘front end’ – where people are checking out at the cashier lanes.  We’ve been experimenting with different technologies there; for instance self-scan aisles and new technology Advantage Checkout, an automated scanning system that scans much faster.   We need to understand how implementing these would affect customers’ experience.  So we built a number of SIMUL8 models so we could say, ‘well if we had this kind of an arrival rate and people had this many items in their basket, how long would it take them to check out?’.  SIMUL8 is a great tool to help us analyze and understand the new technologies that are coming out. It’s very useful for us.

“Brett Bonner, Senior Director of R&D at The Kroger Co. is a fan of simulation.  He makes people build simulations of everything before trying it live.  Do it on paper, don’t try it on your real process.  Evaluate it.

“We’ve also used it in a couple of other places to simulate warehouses for instance; people doing manual picks for pallets going out to grocery stores. We look at the speed of picking and loading and the resources like forklifts that help them, and see where bottlenecks could occur – on loading docks for instance.”

Is there anything you’d like to see more of from SIMUL8, or anything we can help you with?
I’d like to see more in-depth documentation on the new features when they are released so it’s easier for me to incorporate these things into the models I’m building.

That’s certainly something we can help you, and all of our users with.  We’ve almost finished the documentation for SIMUL8 2013’s new features and Jim will be one of the first to see and feedback on this.

Thank you so much for your time today Jim, and I’ll speak to you soon!