24. June 2024

INOSIM 14 and BICON 2.0 unveiled

With the release of INOSIM 14 and BICON 2.0, we are bringing your compute-intense simulation applications up to speed, by parallelization of simulation runs and clever database access management. Furthermore, many quality-of-life updates have found their way into the new version, often based on feedback by our users or inspired by INOSIM’s consulting team.

Of Pizzas and Simulation

To make one pizza, a single cook needs 5 minutes. It is questionable if 5 cooks together could do it in 1 minute. More reasonably, you have invited 10 hungry friends, and to feed them in time, 5 cooks make two pizzas each. Since discrete-event simulation is a lot like making pizza, this is also how parallelization works in INOSIM 14: get done more simulation runs per time by distributing them to different cores from a modern CPU.

As expected, this is a bit more complicated than managing a kitchen (or is it?), therefore many new features were developed which not only enable parallelization, but also speed-up single simulation runs: the new low-cost INOSIM Core Edition, decoupled from the GUI; the option to minimize database read and write operations, while enabling reports from memory; and introducing the ability to enable several simulation instances to access the same database.

The new parallelization feature is the cornerstone of our new stand-alone Statistical Analysis and Optimization Add-on. Additionally, you can build custom parallel simulation solutions via the COM interface, which has been revamped with the new RunData feature for the data transfer between your tool and INOSIM (see below). Parallelization will also become a central element of INOSIM Foresight, our innovative solution for predictive operations support. Stay tuned for new Foresight benefits, such as online sensitivity analyses or active planning, scheduling, and optimization directly within Foresight.

Reduced to the Core

As a perfect companion for INOSIM 14’s new parallelization feature, the newly developed low-cost Core Edition has two advantages compared to a classic Expert Edition or Runtime when it comes to simulation speed.

First, it does not load most of the graphical user interface and therefore starts simulations faster. Second, Core does not write into the database and only reads once at the beginning of the simulation. Reports are created from memory instead of by accessing the database. Optionally, Core can write into the database, of course. With these features, Core is the perfect foundation for the new parallelization feature, and comes with a competitive, volume-based pricing model.

Parallelization is Key

The capability to run multiple simulations simultaneously is especially useful for applications like statistical analysis and mathematical optimization.

Therefore, INOSIM’s built-in Statistical Analyzer and Optimizer Add-ons are complemented by stand-alone companions that manage parallel simulation runs and their results. Users can decide which simulation license type should be used (e.g., the new, inexpensive Core Edition) and specify the maximum number of parallel runs. And the best thing is, the new stand-alone add-ons are included in your existing add-on-license.

Another advantage of the new stand-alone add-ons is that they can also be started from the command line, for example to allow scheduling multiple parallel statistical analyses one after the other or to integrate them into other tool chains.

In addition, the parallelization feature is open for custom solutions: proficient users can build their own command line application to run INOSIM simulations in parallel. This is also the basis for the development of future features of INOSIM Foresight.

What’s in it for Users?

We have thoroughly tested INOSIM 14, also in terms of simulation speed, in various setups with realistic simulation models.

Single simulation runs

A single simulation run in the Expert Edition of INOSIM 14 and 13 have roughly the same performance with the same settings. In our tests, we could show that the Core Edition speeds up the simulation time by 50 % even when writing into the database, and by over 150 % without database access, compared to the Expert Edition. That means a simulation run might finish in just over a third of the time it took in V13.

Statistical Analysis and Parallelization

The built-in Statistical Analysis Add-on (sequential simulation of 40 runs) is almost twice as fast compared to version 13, mainly thanks to the limited write access to the database, but also a general efficiency increase. The stand-alone Statistical Analysis Add-on provides the same speed-up when using the Core Edition.

When using the stand-alone Statistical Analysis with for example 5 parallel simulation instances, one can expect an approx. 4,5-fold speed-up, compared to its fastest sequential counterpart (Core Edition 14); Or a 6-fold speed-up on typical 8 core CPUs, as shown in the diagram below. A larger number of parallel instances is usually hindered by limitations of current computer architecture. That said, the parallelization feature is already close to the theoretical maximum: the ideal speed-up factor would be equal to the number of parallel simulation runs, displayed as grey line in the diagram below. The gap between actual (blue) and ideal speed-up (grey) is due to the simulation over-head of starting new parallel simulation instances and shrinks with larger simulation models.

A Bouquet of New Features

There have been many improvements to the INOSIM software, some small, some for very specific use cases, some long-cherished wishes, some things you did not know you would need until now. What all of them have in common is that they boost your user experience when creating detailed digital twins for complex plants and processes.

  • You can display the uses of, e.g., units or resources in recipes, or shift calendars in units. This is helpful when existing connections keep you from deleting an object.
  • To prevent the unintentional reset of an experiment, you can disable this in the experiment settings.
  • Unit Pools now have Custom Attributes.
  • You can now create reports for unit exceptions, e.g., failures and maintenance.
  • The Transfer-to/from-Unitpool-Control will now also be called in case a failure occurs or maintenance is started.
  • Project-specific paths for macro synchronization are now supported, useful when working with code management software.
  • The new Exists-Method for collections in VBA, e.g., for Units, Materials, and Resources.
  • SandBox-Mode for additional security when working with models from untrustworthy sources.
  • Many updates to the Gantt Chart addressing the ease-of-use, e.g. option for more freedom with custom curves, and a better search function. We have described all of them in a separate article.
  • The new RunData-object when INOSIM is started via the remote-control Don’t worry, the familiar objects Results and UserData both continue to exist, but RunData has many advantages: RunData is a Dictionary object, therefore values can be easily accessed with a key and it becomes a lot easier to use for numerous values. RunData can also be used for simulation output. Furthermore, RunData can be accessed in the simulation even when INOSIM is not started via COM.

And many other small changes or bug fixes. Please refer to the release notes for a full overview.

New built-in Packaged Goods Add-on

INOSIM offers a new add-on to enable integrated simulation of the production process and process logistics. Previously, we provided a VBA-based prototype, which was now completely redone and implemented into the main software. Based on our own experience and user feedback, we also added some features and tweaked the UI.

The Packaged Goods Add-on comes with 13 easy-to-use built-in recipe modules that offer user dialogs to enter data. They allow users to model any logistic process by creating, destroying, pushing, pulling, stacking or filling Movable Unit (MU) items with INOSIM’s intuitive building-block system. For example, a recipe is extended by a filling and storage procedure, which models products being filled into containers, which are then stacked onto pallets and transported by forklift to a warehouse or outbound loading dock. Typical questions to answer are “How many circulating special containers are necessary for inter-site logistics?”, “How many storage lots are needed per site?” or “Is the number of loading bays sufficient for the planned capacity increase?”.

Full integration with INOSIM

The Packaged Goods recipe modules offer a user dialog for input but allow VBA parametrization as well. Results can be displayed in the Gantt chart: MU handling operations are shown in allocation bars, and information like the number of allocated lots or available space can be displayed in curves. The state of MUs and MU-Containers is now available via Diagnostics, and Excel-Reports can be created through the Results-menu. Additionally, with the new BICON 2.0, simulation data from Packaged Goods is included in the BICON export to be displayed in your favorite business intelligence solution. We have prepared new default workbooks for Tableau specifically for Packaged Goods results.

Free Packaged Goods License with Training in 2024

We have developed a new two-day training module to introduce you to all aspects of the new Packaged Goods Add-on. If you join the training in 2024, you receive a free license for Packaged Goods. See our separate promotion page for details.

BICON 2.0 – Faster Than Ever

BICON 2.0 has received some major changes, which makes exports drastically faster while including more data and providing additional features and dashboards. Soon, we will be offering a new training module for BICON with Power BI. Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter or contact us directly.

Faster Exports

By directly accessing results from memory instead of reading from the database, BICON 2.0 provides a significant speed-up. Our tests have shown that exports are created more than 5 times faster now compared to BICON 1.2 with INOSIM 13.

Packaged Goods Support

The workbook templates included with BICON 2.0 provide specific visualizations for INOSIM’s new Packaged Goods Add-on. For example, it allows users to follow the location of individual Movable Units over time in a Gantt chart visualization.

Direct Upload to Tableau

To ease integration with enterprise environment, BICON 2.0 now offers directly upload to Tableau Server and Tableau Cloud (Tableau Online) and for interactive simulations.

Do you have any questions or would like to know more about this topic? Please contact us.

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