Dr. Linda Ann Riley’s (Univ. New Haven) Innovative Teaching Approach for ProModel and Process Simulator (1 of 2)

Headshot_Linda Riley UNH

Dr. Linda Ann Riley Ph.D. UNH

I have been teaching ProModel for the past 20 years and most recently in the capstone simulation course in the University of New Haven’s (UNH) M.S. in Engineering and Operations Management (MSEOM) program.  In the course immediately preceding simulation, Six Sigma Quality Planning, I use both Microsoft Visio and Minitab as the software programs for course delivery.  This brings me to the topic of this blog post: my experiences this past Spring introducing Process Simulator into the ProModel /Visio/ Minitab mix.


In a traditional semester setting, teaching four different software programs in addition to subject matter content could be achievable. But the University of New Haven’s MSEOM is delivered in an accelerated format with each class meeting six hours on one evening each week over seven weeks. The final two classes in the program are Six Sigma Quality Planning and Simulation Techniques and Applications.  During these final two classes over 14 weeks, students also undertake a technical capstone project that fulfills a graduation requirement.

The UNH MSEOM is directed to individuals with technical undergraduate degrees presently holding middle to upper level management positions.  Almost all of the participants in the cohort work in engineering related jobs at large organizations such as General Dynamics, Amgen, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, Pfizer and General Electric to name a few.  Fortunately, I have always had highly motivated students in each cohort I have taught over the past 10 years.

From day one of the Six Sigma class, three programs were introduced, Visio, Minitab and Process Simulator.  I use Lean Six Sigma and Minitab (5th Edition): The Complete Toolbox Guide for Business Improvement by Quentin Brook as the text for the class.  Teaching for six hours per class requires a pedagogical strategy of moving from content delivery to computer exercises and back multiple times during the class.  This strategy has been highly effective over the years and allows for reinforcement of the subject matter and in-class practice and troubleshooting using software.

Since most of the cohort had at least minimal exposure to Visio in the workplace, introducing Process Simulator proved to be rather seamless.  The Quickstart and How To videos were assigned for homework on the first class and by the second class, my expectation was that each student could create a fairly straightforward process flow diagram in Process Simulator as an in-class lab.

PS first model

Process Simulator – First Student Model

The mechanics of creating a process flow chart in the Process Simulator environment presented no challenges for the students.  However, one of my lessons learned involved the information needed to move from the purely Visio environment to the Process Simulator environment.  The level of detail needed with respect to the amount and type of information to accurately define properties for activities, routing rules and arrivals was of the same magnitude as needed for a simulation exercise using ProModel.

PS properties machine center

Process Simulator – Activity Properties Dialogue Box

Even though the students could apply simulation properties to their Process Simulator diagrams, the output results were far from the expected solution at first.

PM first model capacity graph

Output Viewer – Single Capacity Activity States Graph

Consequently, some time was spent troubleshooting the models.  Yet in the process, students developed a much richer understanding of how to use Process Simulator especially within the context of Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.  After a reasonable level of proficiency was developed with Process Simulator, we were able to export data and further analyze results in Minitab.  We will complete Linda’s story in the next post.

About Dr. Linda Ann Riley Contact Information: linda.ann.riley@gmail.com

Linda Ann Riley, Ph.D. presently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Engineering for the University of New Haven’s graduate program in Engineering and Operations Management. She retired from full time teaching and administration in 2015.  Dr. Riley worked for 12 years at Roger Williams University (RWU) where she held the positions of Associate Dean, Engineering Program Coordinator and Professor of Engineering. Prior to RWU, she was a Professor and Program Director at New Mexico State University for 18 years.  Her teaching experience includes both engineering and business courses and she is the recipient of a number of corporate, university and national excellence in teaching awards. Dr. Riley is the author/co-author of over 100 articles, technical and research reports, and book contributions. Her area of scholarly interest involves stochastic system optimization using simulation and evolutionary algorithms.

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