Finding Impartiality in S/W Applications

Rob Wedertz - SME, NST

Rob Wedertz – Director, Navy Programs

As long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of and often used the expression, “I don’t want to build the microwave, I just want to press cook”.  (I’ve never been able to remember when or from whom I first heard it – my apologies for the lack of attribution).  While I’ve sometimes been fascinated by the inner workings and origin of things, in the end I’ve come to adopt the modern world and the pace at which it moves.  I simply don’t have the time of day to dig into the underbellies of things and investigate the underpinnings of how they work nor their interdependencies.  My aversion to such activities was upended when I joined ProModel and led (as a PM) our development team’s efforts to support Verification, Validation, and Accreditation at the behest of our sponsor’s modeling & simulation accreditation agent.  While I do not intend to “build the microwave” here, I would like to describe how I learned that the act of “pressing cook” must be accompanied by complete and total impartiality of the software application.

Software, in a variety of formats, is often used to tell a story.  When it comes to entertainment-based software, and for the sake of the longevity of it, the story should be a very good one.  Thus the reason many folks spend countless hours trying to “level up” (it’s all about the journey, not the destination).  During my college days, I was exposed to Pascal and learned that the methodology (computer language) for telling a story was via if, then, else, while, etc. statements.  Truth be told, I didn’t particularly enjoy trying to figure out how to make the computer say “hello” via that methodology.  Again, I am more of a “show me the story” kind of person, than a “how did you make the story” kind of person.  In that regard I’m quite fond of the software that exists today.  My iPad is a bevy of mindless apps that keep my 5 year old entertained while putting miles on the family wagon.  However, when it comes to decision-support software, the stuff under the hood REALLY does matter and is often as equally important as the story itself.  Through the VV&A journey we’ve traveled to date, I’ve become more and more focused on inner-workings of “the microwave”, both out of necessity and surprisingly out of curiosity.

Our software applications tell stories that often culminate in multi-million dollar and in some cases, billion dollar implications, not necessarily to the good.  Not only must the story be stringently accurate, it must also be 100% impartial (or agnostic) to those who might be directly impacted by the results.  We accomplish that impartiality by ensuring that we never begin our development processes with an end result in mind.  That is not to say that we do not begin with an end-state in mind (i.e. – what is that you want to know?)  The difference is nuanced in print, but significant when it comes to applying the right level of acumen and forethought into software development.  The true genius of leveraging software applications to solve complex problems is that once you’ve figured out “where and why it hurts”, you can use predictive analytics, modeling, and regression analysis to attack the root of the ailment.  In my simplistic mind, our software is being used to treat the condition rather than the symptom.

The rigor that has been applied to the VV&A of our specific DoD program of record is staggering when compared to similar applications.  And it should be.  While many software developers are not particularly fond of documenting source code and defining why a certain script was used, in the end it has made both our customers and us extremely confident about our methodologies, processes, and coding standards.  Frankly, (although I’d never admit it to the folks who raked us through the coals) we’ve become a better development team because of it.  Combine the penultimate requirements associated with VV&A with our use of the Agile/SCRUM development methodology, we’ve accomplished the delivery of an application that withstands painstaking scrutiny and is adaptive enough to answer evolving customer demands and utility.  In the end, the vetting our software application has endured at the hands of the accreditation agent is not the value added propositions our customer demanded, although it was a necessary evolution.  What really matters is that we’ve produced a traceable software application that is impartial.  It may not always give you the answer you want, but it will always give the answer that you need – the truth.

REAL PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER!

One study of the performance of mega projects over the past decade in the oil and gas industry reveals a 78 percent rate of failure. Large projects in the process industries have much poorer outcomes. More megaprojects than ever are being developed and each one brings its own complexity.

  • Projects close to the margin must be dropped
  • Resource constraints must be part of the project selection process

The disadvantages to these very large projects are huge, but of course, so are the rewards. Therefore these projects must be scrutinized and evaluated very carefully. Need to make an accurate risk/reward determination for each “mega project” in your portfolio? Learn how one petroleum pipeline organization did it with Portfolio Simulation.

Check out Portfolio Scheduler:

http://portfoliostud.io/#

Project/Portfolio Risk Evaluation:

http://www.promodel.com/pdf/ML-ProjectReview-PipelineRiskEvaluation.pdf

Enhancing Flow in Healthcare Design with Simulation

Guest Blog Post  - Written by Noah M. Tolson - AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Lean Green Belt -Principal and Practice Area Leader, Planning

Guest Blog Post by Noah M. Tolson – Array Architects Principal and Practice Area Leader, Planning – AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Lean Green Belt

Discrete Event Simulation (DES), which has been utilized across industries for several decades, provides a virtual environment to track and visualize patients, equipment and providers as they move through the steps of care. It is an important tool in supporting Lean Design in the healthcare environment.

In order to achieve the desired physical environment, healthcare architects rely on a vast amount of data – and the tools for harnessing that data are becoming more advanced. Just as BIM (Building Information Modeling) optimizes early decision-making in the design phase, so to can Discrete Event Simulation (DES) influence the design of workflow and patient flow prior to construction.

At Array, we have found that this virtual environment gives us the ability to test a multitude of ‘what if’ scenarios with our clients to understand the impact that different layouts have on workflow, patient flow and resource utilization. The result is an increased confidence that the design will support current needs, as well as provide insight on incorporating flexibility into the design to accommodate the inevitable changes that will come in the future.

There are three key advantages DES provides over other methods of analysis:

 

1)      Real life variability can be applied to critical key measurements such as:  patient demand, times to complete key tasks, wait times for key resources or simply waiting for care, etc.

 

2)      Naturally occurring constraints exist when the demand for services/resources exceeds capacity. DES models allow constraints to be included by identifying the interdependencies between resources available and resources required.

 

3)      DES models simulate the passing of time (into the future) and record key metrics such as wait times, processing times, resource utilization and equipment utilization as they relate to varying patient demand and varying patient acuity. This helps with the daunting task of attempting to predict when the care is to be provided and by whom.

 

Utilizing Lean Design, architectural teams appropriately spend time observing and recording work flow and patient flow to document and understand the current state. Accurately predicting the future state work flow and patient flow has always been difficult to project and arrive at consensus because workflow analysis has traditionally been based on averages. While averages are a good place to start, they don’t tell the entire story. This is where DES, due to the advantages described above, is highly valuable. Using a DES tool like ProModel’s MedModel, Process Simulator or Patient Flow Simulator to model the various hospital processes in the new structure, we can provide much more insight into the effectiveness of potential designs. DES helps evaluate the workflow, resources and patient demand more realistically and simultaneously which allows healthcare decision-makers to be more confident in the design solutions.

Case Study

MedModel was recently used to help one healthcare organization evaluate a newly constructed 220,000 SF outpatient facility. The facility was intended to centralize the services of affiliated specialty practices and education & research centers. This five-floor clinic would allow 65 providers from 13 different practices throughout a specific region to converge in one patient-friendly location. Quality and service was expected to increase greatly by having referring physicians in one collaborative environment. Spreadsheet models were initially used to study the consolidation and facility design project, but provided only static information that relied heavily on the use of averages. This made it hard to accurately study the many complex processes that occur continuously in an outpatient setting. With the limited data available, physicians and administration had difficulty reaching consensus on space requirements and efficient room utilization. At issue, could the newly consolidated practices operate comfortably on the first and third floors, or did they need additional space? A MedModel solution proposed first and third floor designs of the clinic in order to analyze capacity and resources against the current data on patient flow from all the converging practices. The simulation examined the individual practices over a five day period (Monday through Friday) during regular business hours. The measuring criteria consisted of the following:

Exam room utilization

Physician and staff utilization

Number of patients in check-in

Time spent in check-in queue

Patient activity times

Number of patients in imaging queue

After multiple scenarios were run, the output data confirmed there would be sufficient room for the consolidation of practices on the first and third floors. In fact, the analysis showed that on certain days of the week there were not enough providers to fill the capacity on those two floors.

This is one example that illustrated the advantages of DES. Array and ProModel have used similar methods to more accurately project operational outcomes and compare design solutions.

Mitigating the Hawthorne Effect with Bruce Gladwin

Bruce Gladwin, PMP - Vice President, Consulting Services

Bruce Gladwin, PMP – Vice President, Consulting Services

With over 25 years of experience in the simulation field, Bruce has worked with major corporations worldwide developing hundreds of models across a wide range of industries. In his 19-year tenure with ProModel, he has served as a Product Manager, Senior Consultant, and Simulation Trainer. Bruce was named VP of Consulting Services in 2005 and has oversight responsibility for ProModel’s Consulting and Customer Service Operations.

Bruce received a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Brigham Young University. He is a certified expert in Lean production principles and received his Six Sigma Black Belt certification while employed at General Electric’s Power Systems division.

Key projects include:

  • Capacity analysis for GE Energy Products Europe – determined the maximum production capacity for gas turbine components at GE’s European manufacturing facility resulting in a savings of $9.6M  in capital avoidance.
  • Design of a green-field manufacturing site for production of GE industrial generators – resulted in a savings of $1.2M in capital avoidance and identified the need for an accelerated operator training program.
  • Design and analysis of a disassembly process for the Russian-built SS25 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in support of the 1991-92 START treaties between the US and the Soviet Union

Check out Bruce’s presentation on the Hawthorne Effect from the 2013 Winter Simulation Conference and his work with a major home improvement retailer…

ProModel is excited to release AST 6.9!

AST (ARFORGEN Synchronization Toolset) is a custom predictive analytic software platform used by the US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) to source and synchronize Army resources.

AST is now the authoritative system FORSCOM uses to conduct its unit planning and sourcing process in Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN). AST provides the Army with the means to view the predicted impact of today’s sourcing decisions on tomorrow’s utilization of Army personnel moving through ARFORGEN. AST “on screen” capabilities consolidates data from multiple sources, applies existing or “what if” business rules, predicts the outcome, and automatically depicts results thereby eliminating lengthy manual, linear, and presentation based methods previously employed. AST cuts development time for single Courses of Action from days to minutes, while enabling multiple Courses of Action within the same timeframe.

Some of the new features in AST 6.9 include: Improved Sourcing, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, and HQDA integration (tasks, etc.), additional Army Special Forces integration (risk), improved executive-level reporting (scorecard), improved Unit Cycle management, and dozens more enhancements.

ProModel also recently completed a “Financial Costing” proof of principal for FORSCOM that integrated data from AST and the U.S. Army Force Generation Costing Tool (ACT) for analysis in ProModel’s Enterprise Portfolio Simulator (EPS).

Read more about ProModel Custom Solutions and our work with the US Army:

http://www.promodel.com/custom-solutions.asp

http://www.promodel.com/industries/government-department-of-defense.asp#tabbed-nav=tab3

ProModel at the AUSA Winter Symposium and Exposition

RPS_Business_Portrait

Pat Sullivan – VP, Army Programs

With over 5,700 attendees, and over 200 exhibitors, the annual AUSA Winter Symposium and Exposition kept the ProModel team very well occupied. According to Keith Vadas, ProModel’s CEO, the 2014 AUSA (Association of the United States Army) symposium (held during February 19-21, 2014 in Huntsville, AL) was by far the most productive that ProModel has attended. When asked by LTG(R) Roger Thompson, AUSA Vice President for Membership and Meetings, if ProModel would come back if AUSA decided on Huntsville for next year, Keith responded with an emphatic “Absolutely!”

Taking advantage of the efficiency of having the undivided attention of an AUSA audience, which was four times larger than that of last year’s winter conference, Team Redstone hosted an exceptional small-business seminar the day before the conference. The seminar was hosted by a team comprised of NASA, Army Materiel Command, Missile Defense Agency, and the Strategic Missile Defense Command, along with the Army’s Office of Small Business. This was a great networking opportunity, and it revealed some great information about opportunities for ProModel in DOD and NASA.

On Wednesday, February 18th, the ProModel team entered the exhibit hall with great excitement and a superb opportunity to demonstrate how our custom DOD solutions and Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) products are evolving. Many of the attendees expressed that they were on a continual quest for accurate budgeting projections. The Enterprise Portfolio Simulator (EPS) cost module, which is being piloted as a module of the ARFORGEN Synchronization Toolset (AST) at Forces Command, demonstrated a clear visualization of such projections. This EPS capability assists the Army (and it can assist any organization) in applying cost data at the tactical level.  The EPS module then rolls that data up in a package that reflects enterprise budget estimates, which in turn reflect a variety of demand or demand-fulfillment scenarios.

Four Star General Dennis Via, Commander of the US Army Materiel Command (center right) and Major General (Ret) Freeman from Deloitte (center) visit the ProModel booth and discuss the positive impact that DST-SM is having on the Army Materiel Command.

Four Star General Dennis Via, Commander of the US Army Materiel Command (center right) and Major General (Ret) Freeman from Deloitte (center) visit the ProModel booth and discuss the positive impact that DST-SM is having on the Army Materiel Command.

Another highlight was the demonstration of, and interest in, our COTS products like Process Simulator and EPS. DOD elements and industry are seeking ways to gain greater efficiency and to stretch their limited resources. While force structure is being reduced, missions and the need for continual modernization are not. The expectation of those funding DOD is that the military will be increasingly efficient in the execution of prescribed tasks. Therefore, an understanding of how to generate efficiency through Lean practices and events, and of how to predict equipment life-cycle costs in a peacetime environment, is paramount. Additionally, leaders in DOD expressed how they must apply Lean principles to their processes, identify trade-offs, and understand the downstream impacts of change.

Process and portfolio management are significant across the government sector, and they will become even more necessary during this time of decreasing budgets. EPS and Process Simulator, coupled with ProModel’s customized solutions (AST, LMI DST, and NST), provide the foundation for rapid process improvement, budget estimation, and program management. Thanks to the exceptional hospitality of the Tennessee Valley and the great response by our AUSA hosts, ProModel found in Huntsville some fertile ground that will grow much more than cotton.

Major General Collyar, CG at AMCOM, stops by our booth at the AUSA Winter Symposium to talk with ProModel CEO Keith Vadas (right) and ProModels Director of Navy Programs Robert Wedertz (left)

Major General Collyar, CG at AMCOM, stops by our booth at the AUSA Winter Symposium to talk with ProModel CEO Keith Vadas (right) and ProModels Director of Navy Programs Robert Wedertz (left)

Portfolio Scheduler To Be Introduced at Microsoft Project Conference 2014

Portfolio Scheduler is a new and exciting Enterprise Portfolio Simulator (EPS) feature that helps organizations make better decisions by facilitating rapid what-if scenario development.  ProModel is proud to introduce this new feature at Microsoft Project Conference 2014 #ProjConf.  After you simulate a Portfolio in EPS, you can simply visualize the portfolio in a single view. See the impact of projects schedules on your constrained resources.  More work than your resources can handle? Click and drag to change project schedules.

MS Conf 2014 Blog Post Ellen - pic

Please view this short video demonstrating Portfolio Scheduler

EPS Product Summary:

Click to access EPS%20Product%20explanation.pdf

Microsoft Project Conference 2014 (February 2-5):

http://www.msprojectconference.com/

ProModel on The Lean Nation

ProModel’s Bruce Gladwin (V.P., Consulting) and Dave Tucker (Director, LSS Initiatives) join web and radio host Karl Wadensten on “The Lean Nation” to discuss the benefits of ProModel Simulation in lean initiatives.  Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Keith Vadas

Keith Vadas – ProModel President & CEO

The ProModel family would like to wish everyone a very joyous holiday season and a prosperous 2014!  We thank you for all your support and business in 2013.  As always, our goal is to help you meet or exceed your performance goals.  We hope that our people and solutions were able to assist you in that endeavor this past year.

2013 was a banner year for ProModel as we celebrated 25 years of providing solutions that improve performance for companies and organizations all around the world.  We allowed ourselves a little time for celebration and reflection on this amazing milestone, but continued to keep up the pace with a host of new releases, updates, custom solutions and a brand new website.  Looking to the future, 2014 will be another exciting year as we plan to launch new products and improve our current solutions.

As for the next 25 years?  We’ll continue doing what we do best…developing innovative and collaborative predictive analytic solutions to help our customers make better decisions faster!

Thank you and I wish you and your families a happy holiday and joyful New Year.

Ready to Turn Pro?

Get ready for quicker, easier model building with PCS Pro – a brand new level of Process Simulator combining its original ease of use with an enhanced feature set enabling faster model building, more complex processes and improved model maintainability.

Contact your ProModel Rep at 888.900.3090 or email us at pcspro@promodel.com for more information.