Original Date: 04/24/2007
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Decision Support System Through Modeling and Simulation
Modeling and simulation, when combined with a Decision Support System, can provide an organization the tools necessary to make good business-case decisions. The tools enable non-specialists to more effectively and efficiently plan and control key resources by considering system-wide behavior of lower-level models, such as a representation of unit flows within a shop or work cell or high-level models of the entire enterprise.
Recent shipbuilding and automotive experience indicates that modeling and simulation technologies can provide substantial benefits, especially when these tools are embedded within Decision Support Systems (DSS). A DSS integrates models, the data that drive the simulations, and user interfaces to the data and models – placing engineering tools into the hands of decision makers and providing managers and planners with key information that enables them to make better decisions. To be effective, however, it is imperative that these models are incorporated into a support system that provides easy and meaningful access to sophisticated models by users who are not experts in modeling, analysis, and data management. The system must also facilitate the use of a variety of models that are needed to adequately perform shipyard-wide analyses and manage the data that drive the models and the results generated by the simulation.
An example of how the University of New Orleans (UNO) Gulf Coast Region Maritime Technology Center (GCRMTC) has been able to apply modeling and simulation into a DSS lies in the work that was done at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) facilities in Pascagoula, Mississippi and in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This effort originally began as a project to effectively support shipyard improvement efforts. After Katrina the project became one in which the UNO, College of Engineering (COE) was asked to support the specification and procurement processes of the shipyard recovery efforts. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, NGSS facilities in the Gulf Coast region consisted of three distinct machine shops, each manufacturing discrete components and assemblies for the shipbuilding industry. The new task for the COE’s Simulation Based Design Center (SBDC) was to determine the sector-wide capacity of the NGSS machine shops, determine which product groups for the current ship construction forecasts could be produced by which shop, and specify the required equipment to be purchased for Pascagoula to meet planned production capacity.
The COE’s SBDC modeling team worked very closely with NGSS personnel to gather and validate the data drivers for the simulations and to develop preliminary models of the existing equipment. Due to variances in the level of detail and quantity of data provided for each machine shop, independent models were created for each shop. The output from each model was then combined to give an overall prediction of sector capacity and verification of how many pieces of equipment in each fabrication group were required. Further refinements were made to the models and simulations to create a combined model of the three shops, allowing for a more detailed analysis of machining capacity.
The modeling and simulation effort tied into the DSS has given NGSS the tools needed to make enterprisewide decisions that optimize cost and the type of equipment necessary for establishing a regional facility. Through the modeling and simulation efforts, redundancy and overcapacity issues were avoided. To date, three other shops (pipe, blast and paint, and panel line) have been modeled and simulations of alternatives for best business-case analysis have been performed.
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