There are many different products currently on the market for simulation software. Simulation software is expensive, in fact a simulator download might be the most expensive thing you ever download! However, the computer power and tools these programs offer are extremely powerful, especially for business needs. Certain programs, based on reviews, personal use, and use in university cirriculum, stand out above the rest. Here are some of the best options to choose from. These options each have their own benefits, including: easy of use (availability of helpful texts), compatibility with other programs, visual interface, and spreasheet compatability.
ARENA - Arena is a very popular simulation software package. It is commonly taught in university courses, and there are a number of published text books on Arena that can help make it much easier to use. In Arena, you define entities, which are the objects that are moving through your system (customers, parts, products, etc). They are defined by attributes, which can vary per entity. Also defined are resources, which generally provide some service to the entities, and will generally have a defined processing time. The limited resources will naturally cause queues to form. Events can also be scheduled or defined, such as entity arrival times, departure times, and simulation length. Lastly, statistical accumlators are data that will track your output and other key figures.
The user interface of Arena is set up basically like a flow chart, with basic graphics that will show entities moving throughout the process flow. Arena is a good choice for learning how simulation works, and with the help of a textbook or manual, can be fairly easy to understand. It is also powerful enough for many business applications.
iGrafx Process- iGrafx is very similar to Arena in that a process to be simulated is set up like a flow chart. Resources are set up, as well as functions (variables), and attributes. A generator is used to time arrivals, and both events and schedules can be set up. It is very similar to Arena, but has one great advantage: it works with Visio. You can import current Visio flow charts into iGrafx and be halfway to having a dynamic simulation.
ProModel - ProModel is another great choice for a simulator download. ProModel is quite expensive, as are most simulators, but really creates high impact simulations. If you are looking to make a really impressive presentation, this will do it. ProModel works in a similar manner as Arena as well, with perhaps different names for the different parts of the process. What it does really well is providing a visual model of the simulation. You can upload a photo of your plant's layout to serve as the background of your modelspace and physically show what the process will actually look like. There are tons of graphics to choose from including people, forklifts, pallet, etc. You can define paths for all these items as well. This means, you can watch as a forklift drives to your rack, following the appropriate paths over the layout drawing, picks up an image of your product, and take it to a workstation. This is much more visual and makes it easier for your audience to understand your presentation.
Crystal Ball (Excel Add-in) - Crystal Ball is on the other end of the spectrum from ProModel. It is an Excel add-in that is purely data driven, with no visual interface. If you like working with spreadsheets, or have tons of spreadsheet data that would be difficult to convert, this is a great option however. It is the top choice for spreadsheet based simulation software. Crystal Ball is generally used for Monte Carlo type simulations, which means it is excellent for prediciting risk. If you are looking to model the outcome of differet decisions, rather than a physical process, Crystal Ball is the most useful.