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Why and How to Simulate Business Processes

Why and How to Simulate Business Processes

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Why and How to Simulate Business Processes

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Dynamic simulation means introducing the third dimension into the process models: time. Dynamic process models are 'living' process models. They represent the real business processes more closely and in more detail than the static models. Unlike static models, dynamic process models can be executed to simulate their dynamic behavior under certain assumptions. By running a simulation, more information can be obtained than by looking and analyzing a static model. Some constraints and bottlenecks in the process become visible only by simulation.


Simulation is an applicable tool in modeling, current state analysis and new process validation phases. It can also be used as a continuous tool to test the changes in the operational environment and to understand the capacity of the process. Typical questions that can be answered are:


bullet3  What kind of lead times would we have with the current process and resources, if we get 100 orders next month?

bullet3  What effects does adding a new resource to the process have on lead times and resource utilization?


Dynamic simulation is not usable for all kinds of business processes. The most appropriate processes are production, service and administration processes. Usually simulations are done on the 'factory floor' level processes or subprocesses rather than on the higher, more abstract process levels. The reason for this is that a lot more information is needed for a dynamic model than for a static model.


The following table shows some of needs that can be fulfilled using dynamic simulation.





Model a process in detail

Add the simulation information and properties into the model

More precise model of the process

Analyze the current state of the process

Run simulation

Finding bottlenecks and problems in the current process structure

Validate a new process

Run simulation


Finding possible faults in the new process before implementing



Present a process model

Run simulation with animation

More visual presentation pinpointing the bottlenecks

Test the effects of changing the process structure

Make changes to the process structure and run simulation

Understanding the effects of making changes

Test the effects of changes in resources

Make changes to resources and run simulation

Understanding the effects of changed resource situation

Test the effects of changes in process load (e.g. more/less orders)

Make changes to process load and run simulation

Understanding the effects of changed load



Hints for a useful simulation:

bullet3  Know the objective of simulation (i.e. what question do we want to answer)

bullet3  Restrict the model scope (e.g. a certain subprocess under certain assumptions)

bullet3  Test the model by running test simulation runs before utilizing the results to check whether the model is correct

bullet3  Run several simulations under different scenarios to better understand the correlation between the model and the simulation results

bullet3  Analyze results carefully and do not make any hasty conclusions.