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2011 Third International Conference on Computational Intelligence, Modelling & Simulation

Comparison of Two Simulation Software Systems for Modeling a Construction


Process

Amin Nikakhtar Kuan Yew Wong


Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Skudai, Malaysia Skudai, Malaysia
Aminnikakhtar1987@gmail.com wongky@fkm.utm.my

Mohammad Hossein Zarei Ashkan Memari


Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Skudai, Malaysia Skudai, Malaysia
Zarei_2002@yahoo.com ashkan.eng@gmail.com

Abstract Construction process complexities lead to many Examples of simulation software used in simulating
difficulties imposed on construction planners and designers construction processes are SDESA, MicroCYCLONE,
who are facing with different issues such as developing new STROBOSCOPE, etc. In addition to these packages, there
methods or solving problems during a construction process. are generic simulation packages with better graphical
In order to solve these problems in construction industry, environments. ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004
simulation can be an acceptable solution. In this regard, Manufacturing Edition are two simulation tools with
graphical methods have become a useful tool for process powerful animation features.
simulation. To do construction process simulation with a This paper is aimed at comparing the features of two
suitable graphical display, many simulation software are
simulation software, WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing
developed such as PROMODEL, SDESA, and etc. This
Edition and ARENA 13. To do this, a construction process
paper aims at comparing two simulation tools (software),
ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition, for
is simulated using ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004
making a construction process simulation model. It shows Manufacturing Edition. Also, the reports generated by both
that both software produce almost the same results and of the simulation software are compared in order to
outputs for a given construction process. Also, the paper provide a valid comparison.
shows different kinds of features and reports provided by The paper is presented as follows. First, the difficulties
ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition. in construction industry which bring about the application
of simulation in construction are discussed. Second,
Keywords-construction process simulation;simulation different simulation software and languages used for
software;ARENA 13;WITNESS 2004 Manufactring Edition simulating a construction process are reviewed. Third, two
simulation models are constructed for a case study,
I. INTRODUCTION concrete pouring of beams and slabs, using ARENA 13
The Designing of a construction process is becoming and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition. Fourth, these
more complicated in construction industry. This models are verified and validated. Finally, the reports are
complexity leads to many difficulties imposed on compared in order to highlight different features of each of
construction planners and designers who are faced with the software.
different issues such as developing new methods or
solving problems during a construction process. Because II. COMPUTER SIMULATION OF CONSTRUCTION
of the existence of complex relationships in construction PROCESSES
processes, describing a construction process is difficult [1]. In daily construction practices, many decisions related
In order to solve these problems in construction industry, to the construction processes are made by construction
simulation can be an acceptable solution which is applied designers. In some cases, decisions are made with
for designing the construction operations and analyzing unforeseen outcomes. The reason for this is that
their behavior [2, 3]. visualizing all the processes of construction operations is
With the advancement of graphical computer difficult [1].
techniques, graphical methods have attracted attention to In addition, in real-life, it is preferable to test a
themselves for using them as useful tools for process construction process to examine its performance prior to
simulation [4]. There are various simulation software that implementation. From an economic perspective, it is not
provide environments to implement any new principle. suitable to test the process physically since the physical

978-0-7695-4562-2/11 $26.00 2011 IEEE 200


DOI 10.1109/CIMSim.2011.42
testing of a process is time consuming and very expensive Automation as a new generation simulation environment.
[5]. It uses the SIMAN processor and simulation language. It
In order to cope with the above mentioned issues and can be used for both commercial and academic purposes
problems, simulation can be a useful tool. It is a [13]. The fundamental elements of modeling in ARENA
convenient technique used to model actual construction 13 are called modules that are built around SIMAN. In
operations. It provides an environment in which decision order to build a simulation model with ARENA 13, a
makers can better analyze and understand the problems by modeler first selects the appropriate modules from a
doing experiments in a low-cost environment [6]. template panel and places them on the simulation
environment. After that, these modules are connected to
III. CONSTRUCTION PROCESS SIMULATION SYSTEMS each other graphically in order to show the flow of
Using simulation in construction processes has been transactions between them. Finally, the required and
broadly done in various situations. For instance, considered codes are written in each module [14].
introducing lean construction concept into construction On the other hand, WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing
industry caused simulation to be applied in cases Edition is simulation software that is used for designing
pertaining to work flow variability [7]. Also, Tommelin systems and demonstrating their operation in reality.
[8] evaluated the applicability of a production concept in a WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition can help people
pipe-spool installation process with the aid of simulation. by predicting and solving problems related to production
Today there are various simulation software developed bottlenecks, overly-idle resources, etc [15]. In WITNESS
for simulating different construction processes such as 2004 Manufacturing Edition, models are built based on
SDESA, PROMODEL, MicroCYCLONE, Extend, fundamental parts called elements or building blocks.
STROBOSCOPE, etc. In the next section a brief review of Anything used for constructing a model in WITNESS
different features of the mentioned software is done. 2004 Manufacturing Edition is an element. In order to
build a simulation model first the required elements are
IV. COMPUTER SIMULATION SOFTWARE defined then, displayed and detailed. In contrast to
Simulation tools provide a realistic approach for doing ARENA 13 that modules are connected to each other
analysis since they considered the randomness in activity graphically, in WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition,
duration and the influence of resource availability as a the connections can be defined as codes in each element.
constraint to construction work flow [9]. Typical After defining the connections, finally, the required codes
simulation software used in construction process are written in each element.
simulation are SDESA, MicroCYCLONE, and
VI. CASE STUDY: A CONCRETE POURING OPERATION OF
STROBOSCOPE. SDESA is a simple platform based on
BEAMS AND SLABS
activity modeling that makes construction simulation as
easy as applying the current construction planning The case study is part of a concrete building
approaches such as critical path method (CPM). construction located in the city of Mashhad, Iran. It
MicroCYCLONE is a simulation program developed consists of two floors and each floor, according to design
specifically for modeling cyclic processes. It is based on specifications, needs 420 cubic meters of concrete to be
CYCLONE modeling elements. CYCLONE, which stands completed. The concrete operations are divided into two
for cyclic operation network, is the best known simulation main operations. The first one is concrete pouring of slabs
language designed for simulating construction operations and beams and the second is concrete pouring of walls and
and activities [10]. Finally, STROBOSCOPE is a columns. In this paper, the authors aim at focusing on
simulation language applied for construction activity concrete pouring operation of beams and slabs which
simulation. It can also be used in domains other than needs 301 cubic meters of concrete. The operation applies
construction industry [11]. It aims at modeling mobile pumping for concrete pouring. Concrete trucks that
uncertainties related to activity duration, quantity, and contain seven cubic meter of concrete are used for hauling
resource assignment [12]. concrete to the construction site.
In addition to the above simulation software, there are
computer simulation packages which have more attractive VII. PROCESS MAPPING AND DATA COLLECTION
graphical environments. ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 In the first step toward building the simulation model
Manufacturing Edition are two examples of this type. In of a construction process, activities of the process and their
the next section, a brief review of different features of sequences, labors and resources used, and flow of the work
these two software packages is done and after that the rest were determined based on the actual behavior.
of the article is about doing a simulation study for a Interactions between resources, activities, and the flow of
construction operation using theses two software. information in any construction process can be depicted by
process mapping. Figure 1 illustrates the schematic
V. OVERVIEW: ARENA 13 VS. WITNESS 2004 process map of concrete pouring operations using
MANUFACTURING EDITION operation process chart (OPC) symbols. More details of
ARENA 13 is simulation software developed by the process are considered in the simulated model.
System Modeling Company and acquired by Rockwell

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A simulation model of a construction process needs model reflects the actual behavior of the process [17]. In
random durations for each activity. Therefore, after the next two sections, the verification and validation are
developing the process map of the construction process, done for both of the models constructed by ARENA 13
data related to the duration of each activity were gathered. and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition.
Having collected the data sets, a probability distribution
should be fitted to each data set in order to reflect the
randomness of the process. For doing data collection, the
stop watch method was used in order to gather activity
duration data. In this method, first of all the activities were
recorded by a camera and after that the duration of each
activity was recorded using a chronometer. It should be
noted that recording should be done in a way that do not
affect the performance of workforces. For fitting a
probability distribution to a sample data, various computer
packages can be used. EasyFit, which was used in this
study, is one commercial package that fits a wide variety
of distributions to sample observations. Using EasyFit,
many continuous distribution functions (such as
Figure 2. Simulated model of concrete pouring process by WITNESS
Exponential, Beta, Gamma, Uniform, etc.) were tested 2004
against the collected data, and the most promising one
according to the goodness-of-fit tests is selected. Actually,
the goodness-of-fit tests (the chi-square, Anderson Darling
and the KolmogorovSmirnov tests) were used to validate
the assumed distribution functions.

Construction Next
Site Entrance member

Concrete Spreading
hauling

Yes
Vibrating
Is pump NO Slump Concrete Concrete NO Next
busy? Testing pumping truck member
(Queue) finished?

Yes Figure 3. Simulated model of concrete pouring process by ARENA 13


Finishing

Waiting

X. MODEL VERIFICATION
Figure 1. General process mapping of concrete operations Verification, more specifically, includes inspection of
the logic of the model, performing simulation test runs,
VIII. MODEL DEVELOPMENT tracing the entities in sample path trajectories, and
Having defined the best probability distributions, it is evaluating the consistency of statistics of the model [19].
time to construct the simulation model of the considered In order to verify the models built in ARENA 13 and
construction process. The process map, distributions WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition, transactions were
parameters, and actual behaviors were used to accurately checked to see if they go where they are supposed to go
model the conventional concrete pouring operations via and if they do what they are supposed to do under every
ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition. condition.
Figures 2 and 3 illustrate the models constructed by For instance, performance verification of labor 2 in
WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition and ARENA 13, both models is explained in detail through the precise
respectively. tracing of the activities behavior in the model. To do so,
the labor 2s performance results are compared with the
IX. VERIFICATION AND VALIDATION OF THE MODEL total throughput in a random run of the model. For
A process of modeling will be successful when the ARENA 13, results of a test run in Table I demonstrate
simulated model accurately reflects the present workflow that labor 2 has been busy in 46.44% of the total process
process. Therefore, before any experimentation is done, it duration which is 186.11 minutes. It means that the time
is essential to verify and validate the model [16, 17, and that labor 2 spends on pumping a cubic meter of concrete
18]. Model verification ensures that the model behaves as in the entire concrete pouring process is equal to 86.43
expected and it does not have any logical error. On the minutes (46.44%*186.11). On the other hand, according to
other hand, model validation ensures that the simulated collected data and fitted distribution for pumping, labor 2

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averagely pumps one cubic meter of concrete in 0.93 estimate of m number of runs; = level of confidence; =
minutes. Therefore labor 2 pumps the concrete 92.93 times allowable percentage of error; and t , / = critical
(86.37/0.93) in the examined test run. The difference value of the two-tailed t-distribution at a level of
between the above total seized number and the number significance, given m-1 degrees of freedom.
produced by ARENA 13 is 2.12% which is considered The mean and standard deviation estimate are
acceptable for the model. For WITNESS 2004 determined for an initial m number of runs of five. Then at
Manufacturing Edition, the procedure is the same as for a level of confidence of 95% and allowable percentage of
ARENA 13. As can be seen from the results of WITNESS error of 5%, t , . is equal to 2.776. Equation (1)
2004 Manufacturing Edition in Table II, labor 2 has been represents that the number of simulation runs to achieve
busy in 44.68% of the total process duration which is the desired level of accuracy is 4 replicates or greater.
190.51 minutes. Therefore, the time labor 2 spends on Table III shows the calculation of X m and S m . It
pumping is 85.119 minutes (44.68*190.51). Given that the should be noted that the data gathered for estimating the
average time labor 2 spends on pumping one cubic meter mean and standard deviation are the cycle time of the
of concrete is 0.93 minutes, labor 2 pumps the concrete construction process achieved by running the model.
91.52 times. The calculated number of jobs is equal to the After determining the number of simulation runs,
number calculated by WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing validation was done for the simulation model constructed
Edition, shown in Table II. Similarly, all the transactions, by both ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing
modules, linkages and resources were carefully examined Edition. As mentioned before, the actual cycle time was
and subsequently, necessary modifications were done to compared with the results of the five simulation runs.
solve the probable problems and verify the model. Table IV shows the data for validation. It shows that the
TABLE I. RESOURCE RESULTS OF THE MODEL FOR LABOR 2 IN
averages of five simulation runs are 197.82 and 199 for
ARENA 13 ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition
model, respectively. As can be seen in Table IV, the
Labor2 percentage variations in simulation prediction are 3.88 and
Usage Average Minimum Maximum
Instantaneous Utilization 0.464 0 1.000
3.40 for ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing
Scheduled Utilization 0.464 - - Edition respectively, which is considered acceptable.
Number Scheduled 1.000 1.000 1.000
Total Number Seized 91.000 - -
Number Busy 0.464 0 1.000 TABLE III. CALCULATION OF MEAN AND STANDARD DEVIATION
ESTIMATE FOR DETERMINING THE NUMBER OF SIMULATION RUNS

TABLE II. RESOURCE RESULTS OF THE MODEL FOR LABOR 2 IN


WITNESS 2004 MANUFACTURING EDITION Simulation Cycle Time (Minutes)

Name Labor2 1 204.51


%Busy 44.68 2 200.76
%Idle 55.32
Quantity 1 Replication 3 196.09
No. Of Jobs Started 91
4 201.61
No. Of Jobs Ended 91
No. Of Jobs Now 0 5 186.11
Avg Job Time 1.03
197.816
7.209
XI. MODEL VALIDATION
Once the examiner is convinced with the verification
stage, validation activities can get under way. Model TABLE IV. VALIDATION DATA
validation is a critical step to construct a credible Simulated Cycle
simulation model. The standard approach of validation is Simulated
Time (Minutes)- Actual
Cycle Time
to compare the collected actual data to the simulated Replication
(Minutes)-
WITNESS 2004 Cycle Time
model outputs. One of the appropriate factors to show how Manufacturing (Minutes)
ARENA 13
actual process and simulated process are alike is cycle time Edition
[19]. In order to do validation, first the number of 1 204.51 198.27
simulation runs to produce the desired level of accuracy 2 200.76 206.57
should be determined. To do so, Ahmed [20] proposed the 3 196.09 190.51 205.8
following formula, given the m initial replications: 4 201.61 189.78
, /
(1) 5 186.11 208.84
X
Average 197.82 198.79
Where N m = number of simulation runs to achieve Variation (%) 3.88 3.40
the desired level of accuracy; X m = the mean estimate of
an initial m number of runs; S m = the standard deviation

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XII. REPORTS ANALYSIS A significant feature of ARENA 13 is the ability to
After verifying and validating the simulation model, it categorize the activities into different types such as value-
is time to get the results produced by the software. added, non value-added, waiting, transfer, and others. This
ARENA 13 and WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition is very useful in determining the different time spent on
provide simulation reports that can be helpful for different types of processes. This can help a manager to
evaluating the simulated system. These reports include improve the system by minimizing non value-adding
report of the part (entity) performance, labor performance, processes. However, this is not provided by WITNESS
machine performance, etc. This section aims at presenting 2004 Manufacturing Edition. Tables VIII and IX show the
some typical reports generated by ARENA 13 and process reports of the case study provided by WITNESS
WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition in order to show 2004 Manufacturing Edition and ARENA 13, respectively.
different features of the software. As an instance, the
queue (buffer) report generated by ARENA 13 is shown in
Table V. Also, WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition
generates this report as shown in Table VI. As can be seen
in both tables, the results produced by ARENA 13 and
WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing edition are very near to
each other. As an instance, in ARENA 13, the average
amount of time that an entity, one cubic meter of concrete,
waits in the queue of Finishing is 0.31 minutes while in
WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition this time is 0.39
minutes. This minor difference shows that these two
simulation packages generate the same output for a
verified and valid model.
An attractive feature of the reports generated by
WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition is the charts
generated by each report. For example, figure 4 represents
a labor report produced by WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing
Edition in which the bar chart of the report table is also
presented. However, ARENA 13 does not have this feature
for generating the chart of each report. The labor report
produced by ARENA 13 is shown in Table VII in order to Figure 4. Labor report generated by WITNESS 2004
compare it with the labor report of WITNESS 2004 Manufacturing Edition
Manufacturing Edition.
TABLE VII. LABOR REPORT GENERATED BY ARENA 13
TABLE V. QUEUE REPORT GENERATED BY ARENA 13
Resource Detail Summary
Queue Detail Summary Usage
Time Inst Num Num Num Sched
Name
Name Waiting Time (Minute) Util Busy Sched Seized Util
Spreading 2.53 Labor1 0.18 0.18 1.00 13.00 0.18
Vibrating 0.08 Labor2 0.46 0.46 1.00 91.00 0.46
Finishing 0.31 Labor3 0.38 0.38 1.00 91.00 0.38
Other Labor4 0.38 0.38 1.00 91.00 0.38
Name Number Waiting Labor5 0.36 0.36 1.00 91.00 0.36
Spreading 1.12 Labor6 0.36 0.36 1.00 91.00 0.36
Vibrating 0.04 Labor7 0.43 0.43 1.00 91.00 0.43
Finishing 0.14
TABLE VIII. PROCESSES REPORT GENERATED BY WITNESS 2004
TABLE VI. QUEUE REPORT GENERATED BY WITNESS 2004 MANUFACTURING EDITION
MANUFACTURING EDITION
No. Of
Vibrating Finishing Spreading Name %Idle %Busy
Name Operations
Queue Queue Queue
Pumping 55.32 44.68 91
Total In 91 91 91
Total out 91 91 91 Spreading 64.35 35.65 91
Now In 0 0 0
Max 1 2 7 Vibrating 66.41 33.59 91
Min 0 0 0 Finishing 58.64 41.36 91
Avg Size 0.05 0.17 1.07
Avg Time (Minute) 0.12 0.39 2.45 Ready to Pump 82.52 17.48 13

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