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Russ College students’ simulation gains global recognition, solves logistical problem

Megan Reed | Feb 6, 2017
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Russ College students’ simulation gains global recognition, solves logistical problem

Megan Reed | Feb 6, 2017

A team of industrial and systems engineering students applied their skills beyond the classroom, placing in the top 16 of 250 teams in the recent international Simio student competition.

Seniors Shayne Gillian, Anna Frankart and Cami Jones, and junior Samantha Bishop, collectively known as the “AmeriCATS,” were tasked with solving a real-world logistical problem for a hypothetical shipping company, similar to a dilemma they may face in their careers as engineers.

Using Simio’s modeling software, the AmeriCATS programmed the simulation from scratch, accounting for numerous variables to determine the most efficient and profitable method to ship products from Asia to the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

“We started with the inventory level they gave us, and the problems they presented. We manipulated things and worked backwards to the bare minimum of late deliveries we could have,” Bishop said.

Working throughout fall semester, the AmeriCATS found that fulfilling orders directly from Asia to the local distribution centers was ideal, and they detailed their solution in a simulation video.

Throughout the process, the students had to reexamine their own work to ensure that the company would be reaching all their customers while keeping shipping costs low.

“The biggest problem we had was one country was never getting visited,” Frankart said. “We had to look through the logic until we found this one little error that was preventing the ship from getting to its destination.”

The challenge forced the group to think critically, a skill that Gillian said they’ll be able to apply to their other engineering work. For Jones, the competition showed her just how many factors can influence a decision for a complex, international business.

“That’s what we had to teach the model to consider: What could go wrong with this, and how can we make it not go wrong?” she said.

The simulation started as a final project for the Industrial Computer Simulation course taught by Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Dusan Sormaz. His students were divided into 10 teams, which first participated in an internal competition judged by faculty and graduate students. The top three teams’ entries were then sent to the Simio competition.

Sormaz said the project gives students the opportunity to gain valuable experience with problems they’ll work on as engineers.

“Every manufacturing company has to deliver products to their customers. Distribution logistics is a problem that’s faced by most companies in the world,” he said. “This situation that they practice in class gives them the skills they’ll need in the real world.”

Simio holds the competition twice a year, and another challenge began in January. Not resting on their laurels, Gillian and Frankart have decided to enter this semester’s competition as well.