From Reality to Model

Adjunct Prof Mark Klee Headshot

Mark Klee; Adjunct Professor – Eastern Kentucky University

I know what you are thinking “From Reality to Model” shouldn’t that be the other way around? As an engineer at Toyota for the past 24 years I often encounter manufacturing processes that have slowly de-optimized. And now, just by walking by the processes on the floor, I can see waste (motion, waiting, over-processing). I know this means that the these processes need some work.

Our typical method of improving these processes would be to employ the traditional Toyota Production System tools. We begin with observation and time study. Then we use video for motion analysis making these processes visual on paper with standardized work combination tables, standardized work charts, and production capacity calculations. Through these simple analysis tools, the waste in the process becomes more obvious and begins to generate ideas for improvement.

This is typically done one process or one zone of processes at at time. It is also usually done with paper, pencil, and stopwatch. The methods have proven time and again to be effective for process improvement and an effective method of developing engineers as well as manufacturing floor members in process improvement.

After the waste is discovered and the improvement ideas generated it is time to try some improvement ideas. The process visualization and capacity calculation documents are then modified to simulate the improvement idea. Then it is time to try the modified process on the production floor. The concept is tested in a controlled environment. After success is documented, the process standards are modified the team is trained to the new standard.

Using ProModel works very well with the Toyota Production System and as a method for developing manufacturing engineers, manufacturing floor members and students in manufacturing focused curriculum. In Eastern Kentucky University’s Applied Engineering and Management class, we follow this progression.

  • We first focus on learning process observation and visualization skill using the standard Toyota Production System tools.
  • Next we learn the processes of implementing controlled change in a mass production environment. We learn and practice these skills on the manufacturing floor to gain real world experience.
  • After learning the basics of observation and improvement, we come back to the classroom where we employ ProModel to fine tune our processes and learn if there are any opportunities for optimization that may have been overlooked.
  • With ProModel we can also test scenarios that may be difficult to test on the actual production floor like moving a piece of equipment, modifying a cycle time, changing a conveyor length or changing a delivery frequency.
  • These trials can be done as quickly as you can change the numbers in the model allowing for many more cycles of trial and error or trial and success in a shorter time.

As a result of the course and ProModel, students have deeper understanding of both the theory and application of process improvement allowing them to be an instant contributor to a manufacturing organization upon their graduation.

In the end, deeply understanding the current reality through observation, documentation, and modification of the current process helps us make a more accurate model. The result of the more accurate model is further optimization. This deepens learning and the improvement cycle continues.

Brief Bio:

Mark Klee, BS Eastern Kentucky University 1990, MS Purdue University 1992
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky 1994-Present
Eastern Kentucky University Adjunct Faculty 2012-Present

One of ProModel’s Biggest Supporters Reflects on a Career in Academic Optimization!

ProModel Guest Blogger:  Linda Ann Riley, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Engineering, University of New Haven; former Associate Dean and recently retired professor from the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management at Roger Williams University.

Riley photo

Linda Ann Riley, Ph.D.

When Sandra Petty, Academic Coordinator at ProModel Corporation, invited me to contribute to ProModel’s guest blog, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on an academic career with one ever present constant, the ProModel’s suite of simulation software products.  My Universities may have changed, yet each year for the past twenty or so I have taught at least one, (many times far more) discrete-event simulation courses to an undergraduate, graduate, corporate or government audience.  Regardless of the class, a Ph.D. or a freshman undergraduate, I have continued to use ProModel since its early days as one of the first Window’s based simulation products.  As ProModel Corporation has introduced new products, MedModel, ServiceModel, Process Simulator and Portfolio Simulator, my students have had an invaluable opportunity to be exposed to some of the best simulation products in the industry.

Each simulation class that I teach involves an external project where students work with non-proprietary data from industry, government or non-profit entities. Working only with the ProModel Student Package, I have seen some of the most impactful and innovative uses of ProModel simulation software. From modeling casino floor slot machine layout to nuclear reactor evacuation scenarios, the variety of applications for the software has been virtually limitless.  The simulation skillset acquired by students is one of the primary factors companies have cited when hiring students with ProModel experience.  Through the years, the aerospace, health care, automotive, logistics and defense industries have identified significant value in students graduating with exposure to ProModel’s suite of products.

I too, have benefited from using ProModel software.  For my entire career, my research has focused on productivity/process analysis and optimization.  For the past twenty years, ProModel software has played a central role as an application tool for this research.  As ProModel Corporation has evolved with additional products and capabilities, so too has my research.  In the early years, I focused on health care process and facility layout improvement using MedModel to simulate patient queuing alternatives, throughput strategies and identification of system waste. From there, my research moved to rare event simulation such as security breaches, hazardous materials transportation incidents and hybrid simulation that incorporated both a discrete-event and continuous element.  At that time, I used external code and output from other programs as inputs to ProModel. During this period of research, I also focused with Ph.D. students on new approaches to multi-objective evolutionary algorithms as well as meta-heuristics for optimizing large-scale discrete-event simulations using SimRunner as a starting point.

More recently, my research has concentrated on managing and controlling risk in complex infrastructure projects using discrete-event simulation for stochastic scheduling.   In the construction industry, traditional project management and scheduling approaches for highly-complex construction projects typically use methods such as CPM (critical path method), PERT (program evaluation and review technique) or Monte Carlo simulation. For the most part, these methods rely on deterministic, tractable mathematical models underlying the schedule. The ability to accurately predict project schedule outcome and manage performance volatility is essential to controlling risk.  Prior to ProModel Corporation introducing Project and Portfolio Simulator, I would simulate the stochastic nature of these schedules in ProModel.

Even though I have recently retired from a full-time academic career, I will continue to teach discrete-event simulation using ProModel in an adjunct faculty capacity.  Looking to the future, my research will focus primarily on the incorporation and design of intelligent interfaces that identify and apply algorithms for the optimization problem and constraints under study. This implies perhaps an additional layer of code incorporated into the optimization process. Ultimately, this intelligent interface could “learn” to recognize common optimization scenarios, select starting and stopping rules, and potentially also interface with the system improvement framework.

As a further extension to the intelligent interface, dynamic algorithmic visualization capabilities might be incorporated into the optimization procedures.  Immersive technologies are used in many simulation arenas.  Incorporating immersive visualization into optimization would serve to bring a transparency between the modeling and optimization processes. This would allow users and decision makers to interactively view, and potentially redirect the optimization process. In essence, this feature would provide the decision maker the ability to immerse him or herself into the model, thus “directing” both the simulation and optimization processes.

In retrospect, discrete-event simulation and the ProModel Corporation have played a central role in my development as both a teacher and researcher.  I look forward to what the future holds for both the company and the field of discrete-event simulation.

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 recently retired as full professor from the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management at Roger Williams University (RWU) where she worked for twelve years. At RWU, she held the positions of Associate Dean, Engineering Program Coordinator and Professor of Engineering. She has over thirty years of teaching experience in both engineering and business and 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 the optimization of stochastic systems using simulation and evolutionary algorithms.

In addition, Dr. Riley is an active researcher with notable success in grant writing, grant and contract management, creating collaborative research partnerships and research administration. She is responsible for developing and writing over 150 competitive research/consulting proposals and has been awarded or procured contracts for clients in excess of twenty-five million dollars. Prior to her position at Roger Williams University, Dr. Riley spent 17 years at New Mexico State University (NMSU) holding positions as Director of the University Center for Economic Development Research and Assistance, Assistant Director for the Center for Business Research and Services and Director of the Advanced Modeling and Simulation Laboratory. She also held faculty positions in both the Colleges of Business and Engineering at NMSU.

In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Riley is active in consulting. She has extensive consulting experience in organizational productivity/process improvement implementing six sigma, lean, system dynamics, simulation and optimization approaches. She has extensive experience in the design, communication and implementation of strategic and economic development plans. Also, she worked for a number of years with the National Laboratories on technology commercialization strategies.

Dr. Riley is actively involved in attracting women and under-represented groups into science, engineering, mathematics and technology fields. She is a national speaker on the challenges of attracting women and under-represented groups into these fields and served as Chair of the American Society for Engineering Education Northeastern Section and National Chairperson of American Society of Mechanical Engineers Diversity Metrics Committee. Dr. Riley is a member of several professional business and engineering societies and has served as reviewer and/or editorial board member for business, healthcare and engineering journals.

Dr. Riley received her undergraduate degree from Boston University, earned an M.B.A from Suffolk University, completed a post-graduate fellowship at Brown University and earned her M.S. in Industrial Engineering and a Ph.D. in Business with a major field in Logistics from New Mexico State University. Also, for eleven years, Dr. Riley held the position of Vice-Chair of the Board for a large financial institution. In conjunction with this position, she completed 56 credits of Board of Directors courses and was awarded the Friedrich W. Raiffeisen and Edward W. Filene Awards.

ProModel Salutes Founder Charley Harrell for Years of Service…and Getting This Whole Thing Started!

Dr. Charles Harrell founded ProModel in 1988 and was the original developer of the Company’s simulation technology (ProModel PC). Today he serves on the Board of Directors and has been actively involved in new product development, acting as chief technology advisor.  Charley is also an associate professor of Engineering and Technology at Brigham Young University and the author of several simulation books.

Retirement PicsIn May, Charley officially retired from the company and to honor his innovative and productive career ProModel held two celebrations this summer at two of our locations in Orem Utah and Allentown Pennsylvania.  The events were attended by ProModel staff and many of Charley’s long time colleagues who have been with him from the start.

In recent years, Charley has written about his team’s original vision for ProModel back in 1988, “We set out to revolutionize the use of simulation in the business world by introducing the first graphically oriented simulation tool for desktop computers.  We were all convinced that we offered a unique product—a simulation tool that was developed and supported by engineers and specifically designed for engineers.”

Describing the success of ProModel Corporation, Charley writes, “In addition to the impressive growth in ProModel’s predictive simulation technology, it has also been gratifying to see the breadth of application of our technology, not just in fortune 500 companies, but also in the area of healthcare, education, homeland security, military readiness and humanitarian aid.”

The entire ProModel family would like to thank Charley for his years of service, guidance and friendship and we wish him all the best in the future! He has made ProModel what we are today.

In 2013 ProModel celebrated its 25th  Anniversary and Charley shared his memories and appreciation for ProModel in this thoughtful BLOG POST