A Discrete Event Simulator for Modelling Support Services in an Engineering Environment

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: Sch of Applied Sciences

Abstract

The key output of the 12-month follow-on funding period will be a commercially exploitable tool 'Discrete Event Simulator for Modelling Support Services'. Discrete event simulation involves the modelling of a system, as it evolves over time, by representing the changes as separate events. In discrete event simulation, the operation of a system is represented as a chronological sequence of events. Each event occurs at an instant in time and marks a change of state in the system. Within the parent EPSRC project of this proposal (EP/F038526/1, 2008-09), the investigators have used discrete event simulation to develop models of various basic scenarios in the context of an engineering-based service environment. This simulation work provides the focus and research results for this follow-on fund proposal.The aim of the proposed project is to develop a commercially exploitable discrete event simulation tool customised for modelling support services within various engineering-based service environments. The proposed simulation tool will help to address the lack of modelling tools experienced by manufacturers who traditionally manufactured engineering products but are now moving into the provision of services to support these products. These companies currently do not have access to customised modelling capabilities to assess the impact of changing their support service strategies. The current tools for service simulation appear to be generally taken from innovation or business development methodologies, and are therefore aimed at high level decision making within an organisation and cannot directly be applied to the detailed design of support services. The field of discrete event simulation and the commercial tools available (such as Witness from Lanner Group Limited, Arena from Rockwell Automation and Simul8 from Simul8 Corporation) have also typically focused in the past on modelling a manufacturer's production operations rather than service operations. The use of existing simulation tools for modelling support services is therefore very time consuming and requires a high level of modelling skills and knowledge beyond that normally required. The vision of this project is to develop a commercially exploitable discrete event simulation tool that can reduce the time required for modelling support services from months to days and significantly reduce the level of modelling skills and knowledge required. The proposed follow-on project will focus on technical and business development activities necessary for achieving this vision. The unique selling point of the proposed simulation tool is its ability to model support services within various engineering-based service environments. Given the increasing importance of service-related operations for the UK engineering sector, this tool is likely to have a high impact on the industry.By modelling the combined effects of physical elements (such as physical assets, service personnel and spare parts) and information flows within an engineering environment, the proposed simulation tool will allow companies to analyse the impact of different levels of information provision on different contract types. In this way, companies will be able to use the proposed simulation tool to assess, with ease, the potential service needs of their customer base and how these needs can be best achieved. They will also be able to determine bottlenecks in business processes that deliver the support services. The tool will also allow for 'what-if' analysis aiding the decision making process in industry. End users of the tool will be able to examine the cost-benefit effect of service provision with their products. The tool can be used as an aid to the development of business models for the adoption of information technology (such as Integrated Vehicle Health Management - IVHM) for service operations. It can also help in identifying service scenarios that benefit most from information technology implementation.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research? * Manufacturers investigating the possible provision and level of support services with their products * Lanner Group Limited How will they benefit from this research? * Manufacturers: The proposed simulation tool will help to address the lack of modelling tools experienced by manufacturers who traditionally manufactured engineering products but are now moving into the provision of services to support these products. These companies currently do not have access to customised modelling capabilities to assess the impact of changing their support service strategies. The vision of this project is to develop a commercially exploitable discrete event simulation tool that can reduce the time required for modelling support services from months to days and significantly reduce the level of modelling skills and knowledge required. The unique selling point of this tool is its ability to model support services within various engineering-based service environments. Given the increasing importance of service-related operations for the UK engineering sector, this tool is likely to have a high impact on the industry. The tool will also allow companies to analyse the impact of different levels of information provision on different contract types. * Lanner Group Limited: Lanner Group Limited markets its widely used discrete event simulation tool Witness and associated consultancy services that typically focus on modelling manufacturing and service industry operations. The potential of modelling engineering-based support services would be an attractive extension of its toolset. No other tool in the marketplace currently offers this capability. What will be done to ensure that they benefit from this research? Communications, engagement and collaboration: * Links with manufacturers will be further developed in order to establish a market for the tool: - Undertaking market analysis and customer focus groups. - Testing and validating the tool using three real-life case studies developed within the partner companies of Cranfield-Boeing Centre of Excellence in Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM). - An open day presenting the tool to potential industrial partners and customers. - Promoting the tool through the knowledge transfer days organised by the IVHM Centre. - Promotional literature and articles in trade magazines. * Links with Lanner Group Limited will be strengthened and deepened during this follow-on project: - Increased co-operation on technical/programming issues and integration of the tool within the Witness environment (provided by Lanner Group Limited). - Regular meetings and knowledge transfer days. - Joint market analysis and promotion of the proposed simulation tool. - Investigating Lanner Group Limited as a potential route to commercialisation. Exploitation and application: * A simulation tool will be the output of this project. It will be in the form of a plug-in to the Witness environment. * UK and worldwide patent protection will be sought. * Cranfield University is offering the time of an experienced commercialisation and technology transfer professional and a protected environment (rooms and infrastructure). * The software vendor licensing option through Lanner Group Limited will be the focus of initial investigations as a potential route to commercialisation. Other routes to commercialisation, including the consultancy option, will also be investigated as the project progresses. Capability: * The principal and co-investigators will bring relevant technical and research expertise to the project along with the experience gained in the parent EPSRC project (EP/F038526/1). The named researcher will bring experience in the commercialisation of research through his work on the EPSRC project 'A Business Process Miner for Industry' (EP/G005451/1). He was also involved in the conceptual development of the proposed idea as part of the parent EPSRC project.

Publications

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Abdullah Alabdualkarim (First Author) (2011) State of the Art of Simulation Applications in Maintenance Systems in 44th CIRP International Conference on Manufacturing Systems

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Abdullah Alabdulkarim (First Author) (2011) Rapid Modeling of Field Maintenance Using Discrete Event Simulation in Winter Simulation Conference (WSC-2011)

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Abdullah Alabdulkarim (First Author) (2012) Examining the Effect of Spare Part and Labour Availability as Maintenance Constraints on Different Monitoring Levels in Operational Research Society Simulation Workshop (SW-2012)

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Peter Ball (First Author) (2012) A Customised Discrete Event Simulation Tool to Evaluate Engineering Product Service Strategies in Production and Operations Management Society International Conference (POMS-2012)

 
Description Discrete event simulation involves the modelling of a system, as it evolves over time, by representing the changes as separate events. In discrete event simulation, the operation of a system is represented as a chronological sequence of events. Each event occurs at an instant in time and marks a change of state in the system. The aim of this project is to develop a commercially exploitable discrete event simulation tool customised for modelling support services within various engineering-based service environments. The vision of this project is to reduce the time required for modelling support services from months to days and significantly reduce the level of modelling skills and knowledge required.
Exploitation Route The proposed simulation tool will help to address the lack of modelling tools experienced by manufacturers who traditionally manufactured engineering products but are now moving into the provision of services to support these products. The current tools for service simulation appear to be generally taken from innovation or business development methodologies, and are therefore aimed at high level decision making within an organisation and cannot directly be applied to the detailed design of support services. The field of discrete event simulation and the commercial tools available have also typically focused in the past on modelling a manufacturer's production operations rather than service operations. The use of existing simulation tools for modelling support services is therefore very time consuming and requires a high level of modelling skills and knowledge beyond that normally required. This project has focused on both technical and business development activities. The potential customers for the proposed simulation tool are the manufacturers of complex engineering products. Most of these companies already make use of the capabilities of discrete event simulation for modelling their production operations. They are therefore natural customers for the proposed simulation tool. Given the increasing importance of service-related operations for the UK engineering sector, this tool is likely to have a high impact on the industry.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The proposed simulation tool will help to address the lack of modelling tools experienced by manufacturers who traditionally manufactured engineering products but are now moving into the provision of services to support these products. The current tools for service simulation appear to be generally taken from innovation or business development methodologies, and are therefore aimed at high level decision making within an organisation and cannot directly be applied to the detailed design of support services. The field of discrete event simulation and the commercial tools available have also typically focused in the past on modelling a manufacturer's production operations rather than service operations. The use of existing simulation tools for modelling support services is therefore very time consuming and requires a high level of modelling skills and knowledge beyond that normally required. The findings of this project are therefore being used by the commercial tool providers in the field of discrete event simulation.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Research Collaboration with Alstom
Amount £19,000 (GBP)
Funding ID Cranfield-Alstom Industrial Contract Research 
Organisation Alstom 
Sector Private
Country France
Start 10/2011 
End 10/2012
 
Description Research Collaboration with EADS
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MSc Thesis Project 
Organisation Airbus Group 
Department EADS Innovation Works
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2012 
End 09/2012
 
Description Research Collaboration with Smiths-Detection
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MSc Thesis Project 
Organisation Smiths-Detection 
Sector Private
Country United States
Start 04/2012 
End 09/2012
 
Description Saudi Government Funding
Amount £75,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PhD Studentship 
Organisation Government of Saudi Arabia 
Sector Public
Country Saudi Arabia
Start 10/2012 
End 10/2015