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Developing Custom Templates in Arena

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By Karthik Ramanujan, Senior Associate
Published: January 23, 2017

Categories: Consultant’s Corner

Arena simulation software provides standard template panels for general purpose simulation models such as basic process, advanced process and advanced transfer. These panels contain reusable modeling elements called modules. These modules are the building blocks of your simulation model and have generic names like Process, Convey, and Record. But what if you need something more specific? What if you need passengers instead of entities, or doctors instead of resources? Arena allows you to develop custom templates to address your need. In fact, Arena includes a custom template panel - “Packaging” - for modeling high speed processes.

Advantages

Templates are the most useful when defined for a targeted market, such aviation, health care, construction, or semiconductor manufacturing. Such industry-focused templates can use terminology appropriate for the industry, making your model more useful to you and your client. Industry or organization specific behaviors of people, materials, and machines can be abstracted into a module eliminating the translation into general modeling tools. Result: the models are easy to understand, easy to maintain and reused efficiently.

Companies or service providers typically develop custom templates because it provides quick model development. Templates decrease the time needed to develop a comprehensive simulation model, increasing the productivity of the modelers allowing for more models and more scenarios. In programming parlance, a module is analogous to an object. It enables the modeler to capture the characteristic of the process (logic, data, and animation) and permits the reuse of the module. Imagine only needing to reuse a single module with an easy interface in order to edit the data, versus having to copy hard drives worth of logic and animation.

TransSolutions developed TRACS, a planning tool consisting of a suite of custom templates in Arena, to assess the effect of demand and capacity on transportation systems, airports in particular. TRACS – Terminal, Roadway, and Curbside Simulation – integrates the TransSolutions’ planning products into a single tool linkable with SIMMOD - the FAA’s Airport and Airspace Simulation model - and highway simulation tools, such as VISSIM. By integrating these tools with TRACS, TransSolutions has reduced model development time and has provided airports and architects with a comprehensive assessment of facilities’ performance and integration with airspace/airfield and roadway systems.

Considerations

Even though the development of custom templates is rewarding, companies should proceed with caution. Custom template have their limits.  As the underlying processes captured by the modules change, so too should the module. If you fail to do so, the templates become irrelevant and possibly obsolete. To remain effective, modules need to be updated periodically. It is good to monitor process changes whenever there is a new release of Arena which is typically 9-12 months.

Takeaways

If you are an industry-specific service provider or an organization intent on integrating simulation into your toolbox, developing custom templates is a valuable investment. A careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of custom templates will go a long way to maximize your investment in Arena. TransSolutions has developed templates for many years in order to maximize Arena’s benefits to our company and clients of our consulting services.

About the Author:

Karthik A. Ramanujan is an analytics professional with experience in design and analysis of airport terminal system and processes (domestic and international), baggage handling system, and ancillary services such as catering. He has strong fundamentals in statistical modeling & analysis, simulation, optimization, and industrial engineering methods and is passionate about airports, visualization, and new technologies.

As a Senior Associate at TransSolutions, Mr. Ramanujan performs data analyses for performance evaluation and modeling, develops simulation models and analyses of transportation facilities (airport terminals, and train stations), and develops software. He is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, and is proficient with lean six sigma methodologies.

Typical airport projects include performance evaluation of one or more of the following:

  • Ticketing / check-in processes
  • Security screening checkpoint systems
  • Access and exit control systems
  • Customs and government inspection services
  • Baggage claim processes

Mr. Ramanujan is a co-author for the Airport Cooperative Research Program Report 112: Airport Terminal Response Planning. The research report discusses successful practices for public notification that can be effectively applied to airport specific programs to allow airports to increase safety and public awareness. The report explores efficient and effective notification methods during both routine operations and crisis situations, most notably, current public notification processes in aviation and other industries. Mr. Ramanujan developed a decision support tool to build incident response plans for a variety of terminal incidents related to natural disasters and security. The Airport Terminal Incident Response Plan (TIRP) tool is available through the Transportation Research Board.

Mr. Ramanujan holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Management and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University.

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