Using of Simulation Software in General Motors Company

Modern world challenges everyone ranging from an average person to an experienced scientist, as the tempo of living nowadays is extremely fast. Science and technology are fields that develop and improve rapidly. Regarding the latest inventions and discoveries, there is nothing with which modern technologies cannot cope. However, there are two sides of the coin. On the one hand, the level of development of up-to-date technologies can help to deal with any challenge or solve nearly every problem that may occur in the everyday life of a person. On the other hand, technologies can provide a human being with several variants how to overcome an obstacle, which can be done with the help of simulation in the broadest sense of the word. By taking into consideration the term simulation, it is obvious that the closest synonym is imitation, which means an abstraction of reality. As a foregone result, simulation performs one of the leading roles in science and technology. One of the best examples is using SIMUL8 simulation software in the manufacturing processes of General Motors Company (GM).

General Information about Simulation

Simulation is used in the range of fields of science and technology to create, develop, improve, test, or examine objects, actions, or systems over time. It is a good alternative to physical experiments when the object under consideration may be unacceptable or dangerous to use or not accessible at all. It was widely used in different fields independently and, therefore, several types of the simulation may be distinguished. For instance, in physical simulation, real objects are substituted with physical objects. Further, live simulation requires human operators and it is also called human-in-loop simulation. Flight simulator or driving simulator can serve as examples of visual simulation that includes human beings in a computer-controlled setting. Finally, constructive simulation does not involve any participants (“What Is Simulation?”). This kind of simulation is driven by the sequence of events or the existing model.

An attempt to model a real-life situation on a computer to study it and to see how the system works is called computer simulation. This kind of simulation is often used to model different systems in biology, physics, chemistry, economics, as well as engineering. In fact, computer modeling is the most demonstrative method to study the variable behavior of systems changing the parameters of the set model.

Nowadays, there are several software packages to run computer-based simulation modeling. One of them is SIMUL8, a discrete event simulation. It is a package for visual process simulation modeling that is frequently used by numerous companies worldwide. SIMUL8 provides a time-based computer model that matches reality to do an effective testing of new ideas and introduce them to real organizations.

Company Using Simulation Software

GM is an American international corporation that manufactures and distributes vehicle parts and vehicles. This company serves six continents across 23 time zones. GM has over 20,000 dealers in 140 countries (“Our Company Overview”). These numbers serve as a visual representation of the industrial capacity and production facilities of the company. In addition, SIMUL8 helps GM to accomplish its goals and cope with increasing demands. Business leaders have to do more to spend less. As the automobile market demand increases rapidly, they should find the most commercially profitable solution for this situation. The leaders of GM were challenged but SIMUL8 helped to find the most effective methods of working to increase productivity without spending extra money.

As GM is an international company, each geographical market is different because of some peculiarities in the design of vehicles of every model. This factor was the main obstacle in meeting international demands without increasing expenses and number of workers. Business leaders of the company had to modify an old conveyor system to meet new higher demand, as well as to identify the bottlenecks in the system. Discovering problematic aspects of the system would allow experimenting with different possible scenarios of improving the old conveyor system of the company.

The GM team used SIMUL8 to create a simulation of the existing system. Four body types were manufactured in addition to different alternatives and customer choices for each of them. Every variant involved flexible producing technologies. The GM team was provided by simulation software with reliable information about bottlenecks in the process that were not regarded as the problematic ones. In addition, the workload was increased using simulation modeling. By using gathered information, the GM team gained an opportunity to test different variants to eliminate or avoid the bottlenecks, as well as increase the productivity of manufacturing without increasing expenses.

Working with SIMUL8, the GM team tested a variety of scenarios to find a proper solution. Every variant was quickly and closely checked and analyzed through simulation modeling to identify the one that would have a positive impact on throughput of GM. Having completed testing of the system, the team determined that the most effective approach was distributing supporting resources to improve operating time in areas where bottlenecks appeared. In addition to reducing the overhead and saving on the cost of employing extra workers, the business leaders of GM avoided an increase in working hours (“Reconfiguring Maintenance to Increase Throughput”). It allowed the company to remain flexible and to slow down the manufacturing tempo if demand diminishes.

Problems and Their Solutions

Although the most up-to-date technologies are used to improve and make the company successful, human errors occur. In GM, 15-20 simulation engineers support 20-25 development processes at the same time. Human error is an inevitable part of any process that requires human participants. Thus, the leaders of the company were compelled to take every measure to minimize human errors in the simulation area of the manufacturing process. They were to create tools and invent new methods to increase the efficiency and accuracy of the system.

Another challenge was diversity and communication. The new vehicle programs last for 18-24 month and, during this period, a group of customers, as well as a group of simulation engineers, brings some changes to the project (Wood and Harger 1199). Every customer has his own understanding of simulation and every engineer has his own way of reporting the results of simulation modeling. The level of detail increases all the time and these conditions create the challenge of communication.

The GM team found a profitable solution to these problems. They used Microsoft Visio to show the visual form of the model and the results (Wood and Harger 1200). SIMUL8 was regarded as the main discrete event simulation tool. The team created a spreadsheet-like interface for output. A special application was created as well to transfer data between the tools to eliminate entering them several times. They used .xml format to save output at one location and transfer only certain parts of these data to correct tools.

Reporting errors were eliminated by using automation instead of manually inserting information to generate simulation results from the model. The reports were made in Microsoft Visio, and they included not only the results of the study of simulation but a review of the data on bottlenecks and statistics of productivity of the company (Wood and Harger 1200). Documentation was linked with simulation by the bi-directional link, and any change in the simulation was transferred to report and vice versa.

The solution to modeling errors was as follows. SIMUL8 analyzed the final model for divergences between the set data and defined standards. Discovered divergences were marked as possible errors and then automatically reported. Simulation engineers used SIMUL8 to provide the flexibility needed to address issues that needed extra attention (Wood and Harger 1201).

The main amount of data errors that occurred was caused by human errors, as the data from published reports or reports from customers were inserted manually. To minimize human errors, a user interface was developed in a way that would reduce errors while reporting. The system informs an engineer about updating data every time they are refreshed (Wood and Harger 1201).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Simulation Software

Taking into the consideration experience of GM, the advantages of using simulation modeling are vivid. The three of them that are essential include cost, time, and repeatability. Simulation allows experimenting with different levels of difficulty and the only price will be working hours to build the simulation. There is no need to wait long to see whether improvements will have a positive impact on the system. Simulation allows running 5, 10, or even 100 years into the future in seconds. Experiments with simulation may be repeated without additional expenses. Finally, the same system may be tested again with different inputs.

As for disadvantages, building a simulation model may be expensive because it requires powerful and up-to-date computer technologies and high-qualified engineers to create the model of the system correctly. The results of the simulation may be difficult to interpret, so the analysis of the output may be time-consuming.

Conclusion

Simulation software does not protect companies from human errors. However, numerous improvements can be made using simulation software. The benefits of simulation involve change over time and randomness. As vehicle manufacturing is a highly competitive industry, the company had to be flexible to cope with increasing demands. The use of SIMUL8 allowed GM to remain flexible and to slow down the manufacturing tempo if demand diminishes. In addition to reducing the overhead and saving on the cost of employing extra workers, the business leaders of the company also avoided an increase in working hours. Thus, the experience of GM serves as a perfect example of what may be done to improve the existing system, as well as what may be achieved.