Technique 46

Discrete Event Simulation

Visualize and test your innovation through computer modeling.


Discrete event simulation (DES) is a computer-based modeling approach that enables you to simulate processes with substantially less cost, time, and risk than full-blown models. If you have an innovation in mind—such as a way for travelers to get through airport security more quickly—you could use DES to try out your ideas without physically changing the security layout or shuffling travelers through an unfamiliar system.

You should use DES when your innovation is particularly process dependent, with many variables that could affect the flow of customers or products. It does require a significant amount of time to build a detailed and accurate model, especially for more complex processes. But don't shy away from making the effort to learn this powerful technique—you can always enlist the help of a DES expert.

Not all systems can be modeled with discrete event simulation. Some events are continuous, such as the rate of evaporation. These occurrences can be modeled, but they require a different approach. For more information, see Theory of Modeling and Simulation: Integrating Discrete Event and Continuous Complex Dynamic Systems, second edition, by B. Zeigler, H. Praehofer, and T. G. Kim, New York: Academic Press, 2000.


Scenario: Imagine that you're building the tallest skyscraper in the world and you need to know how many elevators to include. The plans call for a building ...

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