To download a PDF version of this white paper, click here.
Simio makes modeling dramatically easier and faster by providing a new object-based paradigm
that radically changes the way objects are built and used. The purpose of this paper is to describe
how the object-oriented modeling framework of Simio differs from other object-oriented
modeling tools. To arrange an issue specific demonstration at WSC 2009, email email@example.com.
The general idea of object-oriented modeling is not new – in fact the first object oriented
modeling tool – Simula – was introduced over 50 years ago and provided the core ideas in use
today in object-oriented modeling tools. There are a number of object-oriented modeling tools on
the market day. When using these tools a user selects objects from a library and places them in a
model. A general consensus from many users of these tools is that they work well on simple
models, but for complex applications they are difficult to use because they either lack flexibility
(users cannot add or modify objects), or achieve flexibility by requiring the user to write
complex code in a programming language such as C++ or Java. Either option is a barrier to the
user in terms of rapidly modeling complex systems. This has been a key constraint on the
widespread acceptance of object-oriented modeling tools.
Simio differs from other object-oriented modeling tools in that Simio objects are process-based
rather than code-based. A Simio object is defined by creating a set of graphical process flows
that describe the object’s behavior. A process is a flowchart that describes a sequence of
activities and decisions that are made by the object. A process may span time and may be
constrained by limited resources. A simple example of a process that is familiar to many users
of process-oriented modeling tools is: SEIZE-DELAY-RELEASE. In this process the object
waits to seize a resource, delays by an activity time, and then releases the resource. Note that
this activity spans time and the time to execute the process is dependent on both the availability
of the resource and the specified delay time.
In other tools the objects are code-based and implemented in a programming language. If the
tool supports user-defined objects, then the user must implement any new objects in the same
programming language. The user must have mastered the basic concepts of object-orientation (e.g. encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, etc.), and also be skilled in the required
programming language. As a result the creation of a new object requires an expert programmer
in a specific programming language.
The process-based objects in Simio have a number of important advantages over the code-based
objects in other tools. The first and most obvious advantage is that objects are much easier to
create since they do not require programming skills in a specific language. In addition since the
logic for a Simio object is defined by graphical process flows and is visible to the user they are
easier to understand and to modify. Most importantly, however, the object behavior in Simio is defined using high-level process modeling constructs that span time. This greatly simplifies the
task of building objects.
In most object-oriented modeling tools the user is able to embellish the provided objects with
custom logic for a specific application. For example it might be necessary to count the number
times that a customer completes service on a specific server and then use this count in some way
within the model logic. This type of user-added logic is very important to be able to flexibly
model a wide range of systems. Tools will typically provide a way to add such logic at
predefined points in the objects that are provided in their standard library.
The process-based objects in Simio again have some unique and important advantages over
code-based objects when it comes to adding custom logic to existing objects. A code-based
object will have logical “hooks” to make calls to a user-supplied function that is executed at
selected points in the object. The user must code this function in the specified programming
language (e.g. C++ or Java). In some cases a simplified scripting tool is provide as an alternative
to do simple things such as assignments without coding, however the flexibility and power of the
scripting tools are very limited. In either case, however, the inserted logic must fully execute at
that specific point in simulated time. The logic cannot delay for a specified time, wait for a
resource to become available or relocate, wait for a tank to reach a specified fill level, or perform
other types of complex logic that spans simulated time. In contrast the process-based objects in
Simio provide a feature called “add-on” processes that are executed at specific logical points in
the object. These are the counterparts to the function calls in code-based objects but are much
more powerful since they have the full power of Simio processes and can span time as necessary.
For example there is an add-on process for the Server object in Simio that is run whenever the
Server fails. This process could be created by the user to include logic to wait to seize the
repairman, and also wait for the repairman to arrive at the Server before returning control back to
the object. This is an extremely powerful capability.
In summary, the process-based objects in Simio provide a number of important advantages over
the more traditional code-based objects found in other object-oriented modeling tools. These
advantages include both ease-of-use by eliminating the requirement to be an expert programmer,
as well as modeling flexibility by allowing objects to be defined and embellished using processes
that span time as opposed to coded functions that must execute without a simulated time-
advance. In short, the process-based objects in Simio (patent pending) are both simpler and
more powerful than the code-based objects in other modeling tools.