In most cases only simulation is applied to compute the performance indicators of a given design alternative of a flow production system. However, to develop and use a simulation model in order to produce statistically significant results is a costly process. First, a simulation model must be developed. Depending on the complexity of the structure of the material flow and the availability of model templates provided by the simulation system, this may take a significant amount of time and cause high costs. In addition to the development of the model logic, usually also an animation view of the modeled flow production system must be designed. For example, the model logic for a flow production system with converging material flow defined with the Arena® simulation software looks as follows:
For the same flow production system, the user could have defined the following animation view:
After the model hase been constructed, the simulation experiment is performed. This may be very time-consuming, too. For example, a single detailed simulation of the design of a car body shop may last about five minutes on a fast PC - even if the animation is deactivated.
As a planner searching for the optimum system configuration will have to perform multiple simulation runs, and as his time usually is limited, he will confine his attention only to a small number of all possible system alternatives selected by intuition. And these do not necessarily include the optimum solution.
As an alternative, analytical performance methods for flow production systems are available, which provide the required performance measures within milliseconds.