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Macro and Micro Levels of DC Simulation
April 20, 2021
From validating the performance of a single piece of equipment to designing an entirely new system from the ground up, distribution center (DC) simulation can provide useful insights at both the macro and micro levels. Here’s a quick overview of how virtual models of these two levels are created, and how they can work together.
Using software and custom analytics tools, sophisticated development teams can simulate the functions and performance of an entire distribution center system. As part of this process, the design can be visualized in an animated virtual environment that models everything from automated equipment to human labor. In addition to providing a valuable tool for managing the complexities of overall system design, this virtual DC can be tested to see how it will respond to very specific challenges.
It is possible to model, for example, how the system would respond if one of its lines breaks down for an hour, or if a forklift runs out of battery power in a location that could disrupt throughput. Any significant challenges encountered by the warehouse simulation can be identified, enabling them to be addressed before implementation.
Common uses for system-level simulation include:
- Comparing equipment types (e.g., Would mobile robots be more efficient than a conveyor system?)
- Solving challenges with space constraints in warehouses, product packaging and other bottlenecks
- Optimizing processes, such as determining what type of sortation equipment will deliver the highest throughput rate or what amount of break time will make workers most efficient
Unit-level emulations focus on a subsystem or single piece of equipment. While these calculations have more intensive requirements, they also deliver significantly higher levels of accuracy.
This level of emulation makes it possible to target specific benchmarks or challenges in order to determine the best possible outcome. It is also used to validate the throughput and reliability of new equipment applications.
The most reliable unit-level emulations rely on complex physics-based engines, using the same software and controls logic used to drive equipment in the real world. Such models ideally leverage performance metrics from the equipment they replicate, such as acceleration and deceleration rates, in order to simulate the most realistic behaviors.
In addition, unit-level models can be incorporated seamlessly into system-level designs, enhancing the overall simulation of the entire operation.
Applications in New and Existing Sites
Simulation and emulation tools can enable new DCs to be planned with maximum efficiency. Entire systems or critical subsystems can be tested to validate throughput rates, define operational constraints, and highlight system sensitivities based on the specific product mix, labor requirements, and throughput and output goals of the operation.
In existing operations, simulation and emulation are often used to evaluate changes to operational conditions or new mechanical systems. This can enable you to verify the effectiveness of different alternatives prior to implementation and select the solution that will best fit the changing needs of the operation.
You can learn more about these game-changing technologies — and the profitable benefits they offer — in our newly released report, DC Simulation Delivers Real-World Results, which details how simulation and emulation can reduce risk.
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