Art of Simulation, CEO and CTO blog

CTO Blog – Why SIMUL8 2016 Will Surprise You!

Frances Sneddon  /   Mar 22, 2016

It’s a real release.

10 years ago I received an email from a customer who had been with us almost since we started in 1994. His email was praising our latest release, there was one phrase I’ve never forgotten “it’s a real release”. It was the best feedback I could have gotten, the features added value to him. Since then that has been our goal with every release of SIMUL8, to ensure we always make a “real release”. No token releases for the sake of it.


That’s why you have to upgrade to SIMUL8 2016 because yet again it is packed with meaningful features that step change the user experience and help draw insight from your simulations. Perhaps most exciting of all, it’s full of features that will surprise you!


It will surprise you.

What’s going to surprise you? It’s the features you didn’t ask for. Even though you didn’t ask for them they’ve been inspired by you, by seeing how you’ve already stretched SIMUL8’s features using them in ways we never thought they could be. They’ve been imagined from listening to you when you were frustrated that there was a key point you couldn’t get across in your simulation to your stakeholders. They’ve been conceptualized by listening to your dreams about wanting more people in your organization to see the value that simulation adds, by wanting people other than yourself to use the simulation and engage with it to gain insights of their own.


Surprise spoiler

Now I’m going to ruin the euphoric pleasure of discovery, a wonderful feature you never knew existed (I am a geek I understand this pleasure so I apologize). My favorite surprise features in SIMUL8 2016 are:

  • UX interface engine
  • Dynamic run time insights


UX Interface Engine

Eh, that’s not on the feature list? I know, everyone else will be calling it “Tabs and HTML Dialogs”. That is the features yes, but the power of those two features combined is to create an interactive, feature rich, polished web based interface for your simulation. It’s the power to turn your simulation from a decision analysis model to an interactive web based user application; in fact, you could even sell it as your own simulation product!


It’s so easy, no developers involved. That was the goal; let you turn your simulation into apps. We’ve been making simulation apps for years. We use a developer – that’s fine for a big software house like us but not for most of you working in your process improvement team. The dream was to give you the power to make simulation web tools, developer free, and we did it, and it’s easy!


You tick a box to add some tabs to your simulation window. Call them what you want, for my simulation applications I always go for 3 simple tabs “Inputs, Simulation, Results”. I like to use my tabs like wizards that guide the user through the steps they should take. Then say what action each tab will do, open a spreadsheet, open a custom report or… open a custom dialog, which now supports HTML.


It’s that crucial last feature that brings the power. We’ve made special tags that will support any SIMUL8 variable, or spreadsheet, but then you use the HTML to make it look exactly how you want, you have total freedom. Now I know not everyone knows HTML but trust me it is so simple to learn, it’s the language I started on years ago at college to teach myself coding, by the end of day 1 I was flying. If you can code Visual Logic, you can code HTML standing on your head!


Then share your simulation in our private Web Portal tool or use and now people can use your simulation in the web in a custom fabulous UX designed by you. That means anyone in your organization can see and use your simulation.


Dynamic run time insights

Again, not the title on the feature tour. On the feature tour it’s “bar charts” and “custom queue colors”. This is us doing what we do best, using run time animation to provide meaningful results. One of my biggest bugbears is people who say animation is just for sizzle; done right animation should be a result in itself. I never add animation that doesn’t deliver insight, if you do that it just clutters and distracts. That’s why I’ve never believed in 3D – if the world was simple enough to look at and solve the problem you wouldn’t need simulation. Sorry rant over, back to the point – animation for results insight.


Custom queue colors let you change the color of the queue based on conditional criteria, average time waiting, average contents etc. That means you can have a traffic light system warning of queues you should be paying attention to, that you might not spot. Maybe a queue always has quite a low content, so it never appears to be a bottleneck, but actually the work items in there have a really long average waiting time, so there is a problem there.


Yes you could get this from going through the numeric results, although you could miss that it only happens during specific time periods because you’re looking at overall average performance, so then yes you could record average queuing times over intervals and go through the hundreds of lines to spot the periods where it goes wrong. But why bother, why not just run your simulation, watch the animation and see the queues turn pink, then without any data trawling your attention is alerted to periods you need to investigate.


Run time bar charts deliver the same opportunity, to see performance change over time, to see the dynamic behavior over time. It is a special kind of insight that only simulation can truly deliver.


How will you use these?

What will be the biggest surprise is how you will use these and the many other features SIMUL8 2016 is packed with to deliver insight. I am looking forward to seeing the inspirational simulations you will create with SIMUL8 2016. Please send me your simulations, or call me to chat simulation. Chatting to you is the best part of my day!


You have inspired us to think outside the box. Thank you for being our inspiration for SIMUL8 2016.


About the author

Frances Sneddon

Frances Sneddon

As Chief Technology Officer for SIMUL8, I am responsible for the strategy and direction of our products, it's also my passion. I love software and every part of what goes into creating an amazing end user experience from the initial connection with our website, to how you interact with the software itself.