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  • By Stuart Barber
  • In Blog
  • Posted 11/07/2017 12:13:00

In this guest blog from Stuart Barber, a Mechanical Engineering student from Huddersfield University, he looks back on his simulation journey, from attending a WITNESS training course, to working on multiple simulation projects during his 12 month placement at Cummins.

One of the questions I asked myself before starting my placement as a Manufacturing Engineer at Cummins was “How will I add value to the business throughout my placement?” Having never worked in a manufacturing department before, I wasn’t sure how my Mechanical Engineering degree studies would translate into a practical working environment.

As part of my placement I was asked to attend the WITNESS Simulation training course in September 2016. Prior to this, I had no experience of simulation modelling whatsoever. In fact, before beginning my placement, I had never heard of predictive simulation! To add to this, I had also never done any form of coding, so I really was starting from scratch.

I came away from the training course with a solid foundation to begin using WITNESS in my role, and since then, I have used WITNESS continuously on a variety of different projects, expanding my knowledge and experience. I have found that experimenting with new modelling techniques has helped to deepen my understanding of WITNESS and provide solutions to complex questions.

Nine months on, I’ve completed five simulation projects with a further three models in progress. By the time I leave Cummins to return to university, I will have completed simulation models for six different business areas across five sites and two continents, something I genuinely do not believe would have happened had I not learnt to use WITNESS.

WITNESS has been an incredible tool in helping me to achieve my work objectives and I am unsure of how I would have approached them without the use of simulation. I have tackled problems in areas as diverse as purchasing, supply chain planning, facilities management and manufacturing, all using WITNESS. Some examples of questions that I’ve answered using WITNESS are:

-What areas of our supply chain could really improve the lead time for our customers?

-How many extra people would we need to employ if we increase production over the next five years?

-What is the minimum level of stock that we need to hold to always fulfil customer orders on time?

Without using WITNESS, answering these questions would be incredibly complex and involve a considerable level of work, not to mention the time required. Using WITNESS, I could answer these questions, and provide each department with a result relatively quickly, with solid evidence to support the solutions I was putting forward.

The biggest benefit I see of using WITNESS, is that the employee immediately becomes capable of working cross-functionally, meaning that they become considerably more effective and valuable. An example of this is my work with the purchasing and logistics departments, where I had no previous knowledge, but by using a WITNESS model, I was able to add value without needing to learn the minute detail of each department.

In my opinion, as businesses are forced to become more ‘lean’, the advantage of having employees who can work cross-functionally will become even more important. Additionally, employees can contribute and answer complex questions for different departments using data provided by departmental experts, by identifying the key inputs and obtaining an overall understanding of the process.

Using WITNESS has enabled me to meet and work with a wide variety of people and departments, giving me a much better understanding of how the whole company works together.

So, to revisit the initial question, have I actually added value to the business over the last year?

As I learnt to use WITNESS so early in my career, it has genuinely helped to shape my view of the way that companies should do business. When presented with a problem, I not only see that WITNESS can be applied to solve it, but I also see the benefits that working with WITNESS brings to a project.

By using WITNESS throughout my placement year, I have been able to work on many more projects, and answer much more complex questions than I could have anticipated. I have been able to provide input to multiple different functions, and I genuinely believe that I have added value to Cummins over the last year, primarily through of the use of simulation.

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