Three ways to refine your design and operation parameters

Modeling and simulation analyze production bottlenecks before going online.

By Michael Verdier and Sam Zhang, BHDP Architecture August 4, 2016

With all of the bottom-line benefits today’s modeling and simulation (M&S) technology offers, why are so many companies continuing to plan and design facilities, such as manufacturing plants, through outdated approaches? Capital spending on greenfield or upgraded facilities is one of the most visible and scrutinized investments a business makes. It’s up to management to ensure that key financial metrics are met, and the facility is both an immediate and long-term success.

Just as computer aided design (CAD) makes a science of machine development, M&S software tools help model, test, and refine plans and designs for facilities. By incorporating known and measured data, M&S is used to create a realistic, virtual representation of an existing or planned manufacturing facility-in action. Being able to accurately replicate the operation of an entire system-such as a factory production module or a warehouse operation-in advance of construction provides three key business benefits:

1. "Smart" speed to market

"Analysis paralysis" can overcome any group engaged in complex planning and design. Decisions based on emotion, "this is how we’ve always done it" thinking, local preferences, and static versus dynamic analyses are inherently limited. With no way to be sure of an optimal design, time, money, and energy can be wasted as stakeholders are unable to come to any agreement or finalize plans.

Data-driven M&S is a direct path to optimal manufacturing facility planning and design. It brings key decision makers into alignment quickly so that the project can move ahead. A fact-based virtual animation of the planned facility functioning as intended encourages swift, intelligent group decision making.

2. Easy scalability

The M&S model allows for evaluation of the effects of multiple proposed changes to the current design. What happens to manufacturing productivity if you change your layout or add more production or packing lines? What is the optimal quantity and location of loading docks? Randomness through the use of statistical distribution, failure modes, and schedule variability can also be integrated as part of an M&S facility planning effort to ensure a robust design.

The benefits of M&S also come into play once the facility is in use. For example, the impact on productivity and cost of any proposed changes in the business plan or capacity plan-such as a speed-up initiative-can be analyzed in real time before implementation. M&S can actually analyze the overall operation as a synchronized system, which is important since any planned operational or equipment changes will likely influence critical parts of the facility both upstream and downstream of the change.

3. Risk avoidance

Staying the course and continuing to execute projects utilizing traditional means and methods is risky. Without the quantitative rigor and validation that M&S brings to the facility planning process, overbuilding and underbuilding are both distinct possibilities. Either one has its own negative consequences.

Overbuilding leads to excessive capital spending, longer schedule durations, increased depreciation costs, and a higher total direct cost of the products being produced.

Underbuilding can be just as catastrophic, resulting in an inability to ship the business, as well as incur higher transportation and warehousing costs due to inter-planting or importing product. Underbuilding can also lead to loss of market share and possibly necessitate an unanticipated manufacturing facility expansion with the added challenge of maintaining production during construction.

– Michael Verdier is vice president, Integrated Industrial Design Practice, at Cincinnati-based BHDP Architecture. He has over 25 years of experience in Engineering and Program Management within the manufacturing and industrial business sectors. Sam Zhang leads the Supply Network Operations Group at BHDP, managing M&S work across the markets which the firm serves.