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This paper describes a new modeling system -- SimioTM that
is designed to simplify model building by promoting
a modeling paradigm shift from the process orientation to
an object orientation. Simio is a simulation modeling
framework based on intelligent objects. The intelligent
objects are built by modelers and then may be reused in
multiple modeling projects. Although the Simio framework
is focused on object-based modeling, it also supports
a seamless use of multiple modeling paradigms including
event, process, object, and agent-based modeling.
1 MODELING PARADIGMS
In the early days of discrete event simulation the dominant
modeling paradigm was the event orientation implemented
by tools such as Simscript (Markowitz, et .al
1962.) and GASP (Pritsker, 1967). In this modeling paradigm
the system is viewed as a series of instantaneous
events that change the state of the system. The modeler
defines the events in the system and models the state
changes that take place when those events occur. This
approach to modeling is very flexible and efficient, but is
also a relatively abstract representation of the system. As
a result many people found modeling using an event
orientation to be difficult.
In the 80's the process orientation displaced the event
orientation as the dominant approach to discrete event simulation.
In the process view we describe the movement
of passive entities through the system as a process flow.
The process flow is described by a series of process steps (e.g. Seize, Delay, Release) that model the state changes
that take place in the system. This approach dates back to
the 1960's with the introduction of GPSS (Gordon, 1960)
and provided a more natural way to describe the system.
However because of many practical issues with the original
GPSS (e.g. an integer clock and slow execution) it did
not become the dominant approach until improved versions
of GPSS (Henriksen, 76) along with newer process
languages such as SLAM( Pegden/Pritsker, 79) and
SIMAN (Pegden, 82) became widely used in the 80's.
During the 80's and 90's graphical modeling and
animation also emerged as key features in simulation
modeling tools. Graphical model building simplified the
process of building process models, and graphical animation dramatically improved the viewing and validation of
simulation results. The introduction of Microsoft Windows
made it possible to build improved graphical user
interfaces and a number of new graphically based tools
emerged (e.g. ProModel and Witness).
Another conceptual advance that occurred during this
time was the introduction of hierarchical process modeling
tools that supported the notion of domain specific
process libraries. The basic concept here is to allow users
to create new process steps by combining existing process
steps. The widely used Arena modeling system (Pegden/
Davis, 1992) is a good example of this capability.
Since the wide spread shift to a graphics-based
process orientation there have been refinements and improvements
in the tools, but no real advances in the underlying
framework. The vast majority of discrete event
models continue to be built using the same process orientation
that has been widely used for the past 25 years.
Although a process orientation has proven to be very
effective in practice, an object orientation provides an attractive
alternative modeling paradigm that has the potential
to be more natural and easier to use. In an object
orientation we model the system by describing the objects
that make up the system. For example we model a factory
by describing the workers, machines, conveyors, robots,
and other objects that make up the system. The system
behavior emerges from the interaction of these objects.
Although a number of products have been introduced
to support an object orientation, to date many practitioners
who have elected to stick with the process orientation.
A big reason for this is that while the underlying modeling
paradigm might be simpler and less abstract, the specific
implementation may be difficult to learn and use (e.g. require programming), or slow in execution. This is
no different than the challenges faced by the process
orientation in unseating the event orientation. Although
the first process modeling tool (GPSS) was introduced in
1961, it took 25 years before the process orientation was
developed to the point that practitioners were persuaded
to make the paradigm shift.
This paper describes Simio -- a new simulation modeling
tool that is designed to make the object orientation
easy to use and efficient to execute. Although Simio incorporates
a number of innovative features in pursuit of
this goal, only time will tell if this tool has bridged the
many practical issues that must be addressed to trigger a widespread paradigm shift in the way practitioners build
The tool is designed from the ground up to support
the object modeling paradigm; however it also supports
the seamless use of multiple modeling paradigms including
a process orientation and event orientation. It also
fully supports both discrete and continuous systems, along
with large scale applications based on agent-based modeling.
These modeling paradigms can be freely mixed within
a single model.
2 THE SIMIO OBJECT PARADIGM
Simio is a simulation modeling framework based on intelligent
objects. The intelligent objects are built by modelers
and then may be reused in multiple modeling
projects. Objects can be stored in libraries and easily
shared. A beginning modeler may prefer to use pre-built
objects from libraries, however the system is designed to
make it easy for even beginning modelers to build their
own intelligent objects for use in building hierarchical
An object might be a machine, robot, airplane, customer,
doctor, tank, bus, ship, or any other thing that you
might encounter in your system. A model is built by
combining objects that represent the physical components
of the system. A Simio model looks like the real system.
The model logic and animation is built as a single step.
An object may be animated in 3D to reflect the
changing state of the object. For example a forklift truck
raises and lowers its lift, a robot opens and closes its gripper,
and a battle tank turns its turret. The animated model
provides a moving picture of the system in operation.
Objects are built using the concepts of object-
orientation. However unlike other object oriented simulation
systems, the process of building an object is very
simple and completely graphical. There is no need to
write programming code to create new objects.
The activity of building an object in Simio is identical
to the activity of building a model -- in fact there is no
difference between an object and a model. This concept is
referred to as the equivalence principle and is central to
the design of Simio. Whenever you build a model it is by
definition an object that can be instantiated into another
model. For example, if you combine two machines and a
robot into a model of a work cell, the work cell model is
itself an object that can then be instantiated any number of
times into other models. The work cell is an object just
like the machines and robot are objects. In Simio there is
no way to separate the idea of building a model from the
concept of building an object. Every model that is built in
Simio is automatically a building block that can be used
in building higher level models.
3 THE OBJECT ORIENTED FOUNDATION
Many popular programming languages such as C++, C#,
and Java are all built around the basic principles of object
oriented programming (OOP). In this programming paradigm
software is constructed as a collection of cooperating
objects that are instantiated from classes. These
classes are designed using the core principles of abstraction,
encapsulation, polymorphism, inheritance, and composition.
The abstraction principle can be summarized as focusing
on the essential. The basic principle is to make the
classes structure as simple as possible.
The encapsulation principle specifies that only the
object can change its state. Encapsulation seals the implementation
of the object class from the outside world.
Polymorphism provides a consistent method for messages
to trigger object actions. Each object class decides
how to respond to a specific message.
Inheritance is a key concept that allows new object
classes to be derived from existing object classes: this is
sometimes referred to as the "is-a" relationship. This is
also referred to as sub-classing since we are creating a
more specialized class of an object. Sub-classing typically
allows the object behavior to be extended with new
logic, and also modified by overriding some of the existing
Composition allows new object classes to be built by
combining existing object classes: this is sometimes referred
to as the "has-a" relationship. Objects become
building blocks for creating higher level objects.
It is interesting to note that the roots of these ideas
date back to the early 1960's with the Simula 67 simulation
modeling tool. This modeling tool was created by
Kristen Nygaard and Ole-Johan Dahl (1962) of the Norwegian
Computing Center in Oslo to model the behavior
of ships. They introduced the basic concepts of creating
classes of objects that own their data and behavior, and
could be instantiated into other objects. This was the
birth of hierarchical modeling and object-oriented programming.
Many people assume that object-oriented programming
concepts were developed within the programming
world; however this was not the case. These principles
were developed for building simulation models, and then
adopted by the programming world.
Although the simulation world created the original
object-oriented concepts, it has yet to produce an object-
oriented modeling framework that practitioners have
widely embraced. Although there have been a number of
attempts to provide such a framework, in the end practitioners
have for the most part stuck to their proven
process orientation for modeling. One of the big reasons
for this is that most past attempts have simply been object-
oriented programming libraries that require the user
to step back in time 25 years and again code their models
and/or objects in a programming language.
4 THE SIMIO OBJECT FRAMEWORK
The Simio object framework is built on the same basic
principles as object oriented programming languages;
however these principles are applied within a modeling
framework and not a programming framework. For example
the Microsoft development team that designed C#
applied these basic principles in the design of that programming
language. Although these same principles
drive the design of Simio, the result is not a programming
language, but rather a graphical modeling system. This
distinction is important in understanding the design of
Simio is not simply a simulation modeling tool that is
programmed in an OOP language (although it is programmed
in C#). Likewise it is not simple a set of classes
available in an OOP language such as Java or C++ that
are useful for building simulation models. Simio is a
graphical modeling framework to support the construction
of simulation models that is designed around the basic object
oriented principles. For example when you create an
object such as a "machine" in Simio, the principle of inheritance
allows you to create a new class of machines
that inherits the base behavior of a "machine", but this
behavior can be modified (overridden) and extended.
Whereas in a programming language we extend or override
behavior by writing methods in a programming language,
in Simio we extend or override behavior by adding
and overriding graphically defined process models.
This distinction between object oriented modeling
and object oriented programming is crucial. With Simio
the skills required to define and add new objects to the
system are modeling skills, not programming skills.
5 THE ANATOMY OF AN OBJECT (MODEL)
When you create a model in Simio, you are creating an
object class from which multiple instances can be created.
This process is referred to as instantiation.
When you instantiate an object into a model, you
may specify properties of the object that govern the behavior
of this specific instance of this object. For example
the properties for a machine might include the setup,
processing, and teardown time, along with a bill or materials
and a operator required during the setup. The creator
of the object decides on the number and the meaning of
the properties. The properties in Simio are strongly typed
and can represent numeric values, Booleans, strings, object
references, dates and times, etc. Since any model that
you build is by definition an object, you have the opportunity
to parameterize your model through properties as
It should be noted that instantiating a model is not the
same as copying or cloning the model. When a model is
used as a building block in the construction of other models
it may be instantiated many times in many different
models. The model instance simply holds a reference to
the one model definition that is used over and over again.
The instance also holds the property values since these are
unique to each instance. However the model logic is
shared by all instances. Regardless of how many instances
are created, there is only one class definition of
the object, and each instance refers back to this single definition.
Each instance holds the properties that are
unique to that instance, but looks back to the definition to
get its underlying behavior. If the behavior in the definition
is changed then all instances automatically make use
of this new behavior.
In addition to properties, objects also have states.
States are also strongly typed but always map to a numeric
value. For example the Booleans true and false map to
1 and 0, and an enumerated list of state names map to the
list index position (0, 1, …., N) in the list. A state
changes as a result of the execution of the logic inside the
object. Properties can be thought of as inputs to an object,
and states can be thought of as output responses that
change throughout the execution of the object logic. A
state might represent a count of completed parts, the status
of a machine selected from an enumerated state list,
the temperature of an ingot heating in a furnace, the level
of oil in a ship being filled, or the accumulation level on a
There are two basic types of states: discrete and continuous.
A discrete state is a value that only changes at
event times (customer arrival, machine breakdown, etc.)
A continuous state (e.g. tank level, position of a cart, etc.)
has a value that changes continuously over time.
6 THREE OBJECT TIERS
One of the important and unique internal design features
of Simio is the use of a three tier object structure that separates
an object into an object definition, object instance,
and object realization. The object definition specifies the
object behavior and it is shared by all instances of the object.
An object instance is simply an instance of that object
within a parent object definition (e.g. a lathe machine
instance is placed inside a work cell definition). The object
instance defines the property values for each individual
instance of the object and this instance data is in turn
shared by all object realizations.
The object realization is used to represent a specific
realization of an instance within an expanded model hierarchy.
For example, each time a new work cell instance
is placed in a parent object definition (e.g. a production
line) it creates the need for a new realization for the embedded
lathe. Although the work cell definition is built
from a single lathe instance, this single lathe instance
cannot hold the state values corresponding to multiple
lathe realizations that result from multiple instances of the
work cell. The object realizations provide the mechanism
for holding this hierarchical state information in a very
compact form. The object realizations are only created
during model execution and hold only the model state variables
and a reference to their parent object instance.
This is a highly efficient structure that is crucial for large
scale applications such as agent-based models that can
have many thousands of object realizations.
7 THREE WAYS TO BUILD OBJECT
The previous example in which we defined a new object
definition (work cell) by combining other objects (machines
and a robot) is one example of how we can create
object definitions in Simio. This type of object is called a
composed object because we create this object by combining
two or more component objects. This object building
approach is fully hierarchical, i.e. a composed object can
be used as a component object in building higher level objects.
This is only one way of building objects in Simio there
are two other important methods.
The most basic method for creating objects in Simio
is by defining the logical processes that alter their state in
response to events. For example, a machine object might
be built by defining the processes that alter the machine
state as events occur such as part arrival, tool breakdown,
etc. This type of modeling is similar to the process modeling
done in traditional modeling systems in use today
such as Arena or GPSS. An object that is defined by describing
its native processes is called a base object.A
base object can in turn be used as a component object for
building higher level objects.
The final method for building objects in Simio is
based on the concept of inheritance. In this case we
create an object from an existing object by overriding (i.e.
replacing) one or more processes within the object, or
adding additional processes to extend its behavior. In
other words we start with an object that is almost what we
want, and then we modify and extend it as necessary to
make it serve our own purpose. For example we might
build a specialized drill object from a generalized machine
object by adding additional processes to handle the
failure and replacement of the drill bit. An object that is
built in this way is referred to as a derived object because
it is sub-classed from an existing object.
Regardless which method is used to create an object,
once created it is used in exactly the same way. An object
can be instantiated any number of times into a model.
You simply select the object of interest and place it (instantiate
it) into your model
8 OBJECT CLASS
There are six basic classes of objects in Simio. These six
classes of objects provide a starting point for creating intelligent
objects within Simio. By default, all six of these
classes of objects have very little native intelligence, but
all have the ability to gain intelligence. You build intelligent
versions of these objects by modeling their behavior
as a collection of event driven processes.
The first class is the fixed object. This object has a
fixed location in the model and is used to represent the
things in your system that do not move from one location
to another. Fixed objects are used to represent stationary
equipment such as machines, fueling stations, etc.
Agents are objects that can freely move through 3dimensional
space. Agents are also typically used for developing
agent-based models. This modeling view is useful
for studying systems that are composed of many independently
acting intelligent objects that interact with each
other and in so doing create the overall system behavior.
Examples of applications include market acceptance of a
new product or service, or population growth of competing
species within an environment.
An entity is sub-classed from the Agent class and has
one important added behavior. Entities can move through
the system from object to object over a network of links
and nodes. Examples of entities include customers in a
service system, work pieces in a manufacturing system,
ships in a transportation system, tanks in a combat system,
and doctors, nurses, and patients in a health delivery
Note that in traditional modeling systems such as
GPSS or Arena the entities are passive and are acted upon
by the model processes. However in Simio the entities
can have intelligence and control their own behavior.
Link and node objects are used to build networks
over which entities may flow. A link defines a pathway
for entity movement between objects. A node defines a
starting or ending point for a link. Links and nodes can
be combined together into complex networks. Although
the base link has little intelligence we can add behavior to
allow it to model unconstrained flow, congested traffic
flow, or complex material handling systems such as accumulating
conveyors or power and free systems.
The final class of object is a transporter and is sub-
classed from the entity class. A transporter is an entity
that has the added capability to pickup, carry, and drop off
one or more other entities. By default transporters have
none of this behavior, but by adding model logic to this
class we can create a wide range of transporter behaviors.
A transporter can model a taxi cab, bus, AGV, subway
car, forklift truck, or any other object that has the ability
to carry other entities from one location to another.
A key feature of Simio is the ability to create a wide
range of object behaviors from these six basic classes.
The Simio modeling framework is application domain
neutral -- i.e. these six basic classes are not specific to
manufacturing, service systems, healthcare, military, etc..
However it is easy to build application focused libraries
comprised of intelligent objects from these six classes designed
for specific application.. For example it is relatively
simple to build an object (in this case a link) that
represents a complex accumulating conveyor for use in
manufacturing applications. The design philosophy of
Simio directs that this type of domain specific logic belongs
in the objects that are built by users, and not programmed
into the core system.
9 CREATING INTELLIGENT OBJECTS WITH
Modeling in Simio begins with base objects -- it is the
foundation on which higher level objects are built. A
base object in Simio is a fixed object, agent, entity, link,
node, or transporter that has intelligence added by one or
more processes. Processes give an object its intelligence
by defining the logic that is executed in response to
Each process is a sequence of process steps that is
triggered by an event and is executed by a token.A
process always begins with a single Begin step, and ends
with a single End step. A token is released by the Begin
step and is simply a thread of execution (similar to entities
in Arena). A token may have properties (input parameters)
and states (runtime changeable values) that control
the execution of the process steps. You can define your
own classes of tokens that have different combinations of
properties and states.
The modeling power of Simio comes from the set of
events that are automatically triggered for the six basic
classes of objects, along with the process steps that are
available to model state changes that occur in response to
these events. Fully mastering the art of building intelligent
objects involves learning the events and the collection
of available process steps, along with the knowledge
and experience of how to combine these steps to represent
Each step in Simio models a simple process such as
holding the token for a time delay, seizing/releasing of a
resource, waiting for an event to occur, assigning a new
value to a state, or deciding between alternate flow paths.
Some steps (e.g. Delay) are general purpose steps that are
useful in modeling objects, links, entities, transporters,
agents, and groups. Other steps are only useful for specific
objects. For example, the Pickup and Dropoff steps are
only useful for adding intelligence to transporters and the
Engage and Disengage steps are only useful in adding intelligence
Each object class has its own set of events. For example,
a link provides events that fire when entities enter and leave the link, merge fully onto the link, collide with
or separate from other entities that reside on the link,
move within a specified range of another entity, etc. By
providing model logic to respond to these events we can
completely control the movement of entities across the
link. For example, to add accumulation logic to the link
we simply write a small process that its triggered when an
entity collides with the entity it is following, and reassigns
the speed of the entity to match the speed of the entity that
it is following.
The process steps that are used to define the underlying
logic for an object are stateless -- i.e. they have properties
(input parameters) but no states (output responses).
This is important because this means that a single copy of
the process can be held by the object class definition, and
shared by an arbitrary number of object instances. If the
process logic is changed, this fact is automatically reflected
by all instances of the object.
The states for an object instance are held in elements.
Elements define the dynamic components of an object and
may have both properties (input parameters) and states
(runtime changeable values). Within an object the tokens
may execute steps that change the states of the elements
that are owned by the object.
An example of an element is the station that defines a
location within an object. Stations are also used to define
entry and exit points into and out of an object. Entities
can transfer into and out of stations (using the Transfer
step), and a station maintains a queue of entities currently
in the station as well as entities waiting to transfer into the
station. A station has a capacity that limits transfers into a
station. Hence an entity arriving to an object over a link
can only exit the link and enter the object if the entry station
for the object has capacity available.
10 FINITE CAPACITY SCHEDULING
Although simulation has traditionally been applied to the
design problem, it can also be used on an operational basis
to generate production schedules for the factory floor.
When used in this mode, simulation is a Finite Capacity
Scheduler (FCS) and provides an alternative to other FCS
methods such as optimization algorithms and job-at-atime
sequencers. However simulation based FCS has a
number of important advantages (e.g. speed of execution
and flexible scheduling logic) that make it a powerful solution
for scheduling applications
Simulation provides a simple yet flexible method for
generating a finite capacity schedule for the factory floor.
The basic approach with simulation-based scheduling is
to run the factory model using the starting state of the factory
and the set of planned orders to be produced. Decision
rules are incorporated into the model to make job selection,
resource selection, and routing decisions. The
simulation constructs a schedule by simulating the flow of
work through the facility and making "smart" decisions
based on the scheduling rules specified. The simulation
results are typically displayed as jobs loaded on interactive
Gantt chart that can be further manipulated by the user.
There are a large number of rules that can be applied
within a simulation model to generate different types of
schedules focused on measures such as maximizing
throughput, maintaining high utilization on a bottleneck,
minimizing changeovers, or meeting specified due dates.
Because of the special requirements imposed by
scheduling applications (e.g. the need for specialized decision
rules and the need to view the results in the form of
an interactive Gantt chart), simulation-based scheduling
applications have typically employed specialized simulators
specifically designed for this application area. The
problem with this approach is that the specialized simulators
have built-in, data-driven factory models that cannot
be altered or changed to fit the application. In many cases
this built-in model is an overly simplified view of the
complexities of the production floor. .This one model fits
all approach severely limits the range of applications for
these tools. Some production processes can be adequately
represented by this fixed model, but many others cannot.
Simio takes a different approach by allowing the factory
model to be defined using the full general-purpose
modeling power of the tool. Hence the range of applications
is no longer restricted by a fixed built-in model that
cannot be altered or changed between applications. The
complexities of the production process can be fully captured
by the user-built Simio model. This not only includes
the logic within each work center, but also the material
handling required to move jobs between work
The specialized requirements for FCS applications
are addressed by incorporating features into Simio to specifically
support the needs of FCS. These features include
the support for externally defined job data sets along with
very flexible modeling of resources and materials. Although
these features are specifically designed to unleash
the full modeling power of Simio for FCS applications,
they are also useful in general modeling applications.
A Simio job data set allows a list of jobs to be externally
defined for processing by the simulation model.
The jobs are defined in a data set containing one or more
tables, with relations defined between table columns. The
specific schema for holding the job data is arbitrary and
can be user defined to match the data schema for the
manufacturing data (e.g. an ERP system). The job data
typically includes release and due date, job routings, setup
and processing times, material requirements, as well as
other properties that are relevant to the system of interest..
The objects in Simio can directly reference values specified
in the job data set (e.g. processing time) without
knowing the schema that was implemented to store the
Any object in Simio can serve as a capacitated resource
and can have its own independent behavior. Resources
can be selected from a list based on flexible rules
such as minimum changeover time or longest idle time. .
Resources also support very flexible rules (earliest due
date, least remaining slack, critical ratio, etc) for selecting
between competing jobs that are waiting to seize the resource.
Finally the job usage history for resources can be
displayed on an interactive Gantt chart.
The Materials element in Simio provides direct support
to model things that can be consumed and produced
during the execution of the model. Materials can also be
defined hierarchically to model a traditional Bill of Materials
(BOM) for manufacturing applications. Hence a
manufacturing step can be modeled as the consumption of
a specific list of materials within the hierarchical BOM.
Simio is a new modeling framework based on the core
principles of object oriented modeling. It is unique in the
- The Simio framework is a graphical object-
oriented modeling framework as opposed to
simply a set of classes in an object-oriented programming
language that are useful for simulation
modeling. The graphical modeling framework of
Simio fully supports the core principles of object
oriented modeling without requiring programming
skills to add new objects to the system.
- The Simio framework is domain neutral, and allows
objects to be built that support many different
application areas. The process modeling features
in Simio make it possible to create new
objects with complex behavior.
- The Simio framework supports multiple modeling
paradigms. The framework supports the
modeling of both discrete and continuous systems,
and supports an event, process, object, and
agent modeling view.
- The Simio framework provides specialized features
to directly support applications in emulation
and finite capacity scheduling that fully leverage
the general modeling capabilities of