By Chung, Christopher A.
Industrial Management , Vol. 36, No. 5
Microcomputer simulation has become one of the most innovative approaches to process analysis in industry. Today, a wide variety of packages are available that can easily model and animate complex system-level industrial processes. While IEs have been reaping the benefits of this conventional type of simulation for a number of years, industrial managers are only now realizing the potential of a different class of microcomputer simulation, industrial management simulators.
In contrast to conventional simulation, which aids in layout and capacity analysis, industrial management simulators concentrate on developing management skills. In this respect industrial management simulators are closely related to business management simulators, such as the MIT Peoples' Express Management Flight Simulator. However, while business simulators frequently emphasize a whole enterprise approach, dealing with very high-level strategically and financially oriented decisions, industrial management simulators focus on tactical and operational decisions at the plant and lower product/process level.
Industrial management simulators specifically allow managers to interactively learn about industrial system dynamics, test strategies, and observe outcomes in compressed time. By utilizing a high level of interactivity, these simulators enable managers to learn experientially. When used in a group setting, industrial management simulators also promote team building and help develop interpersonal skills.
Industrial management simulators depend heavily on the recent advances in microcomputer hardware and software. These advances permit the development of graphical user-friendly interfaces, which can simultaneously present decision choices, resource consumption and performance feedback. Properly executed, these features add to the realism and value of the simulator experience.
One recently developed industrial management simulator is the Maxis SimRefinery. With SimRefinery, managers learn about plant management by controlling the selection of crude oil entering a refinery, the refinement process, and the output of refined petroleum products. …