Paulo Nascimento, student of Industrial and Management Engineering at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC) was distinguished at an international competition promoted by the American company Simio, specialized in simulation and programming tools for industry and services.
The Student Simulation Competition takes place twice a year and challenges university students from all over the world to find solutions to complex engineering problems, awarding the four best proposals.
In this edition, the challenge was to design a strategy for collecting, preparing and dispatching orders at a distribution centre, using a simulation approach.
The simulation consists of representing real-world processes and / or operations, through control logic and mathematical expressions. “Thus, and according to the detail of the representation of the real system, it allows to understand what may happen in the system according to different scenarios tested. This allows not only to obtain significant savings compared to experiments carried out in the real system, but also allows to test scenarios that could hardly be tested in a real environment”, explains Paulo Nascimento.
In order to carry out this project, several requirements were established, namely in terms of warehouse management and process optimization. In particular, Simio wanted a solution capable of balancing the workload throughout the whole warehouse, starting with the collection of items from the shelves where they are located, and later considering all downstream processes, namely, packaging. A simulation model of the distribution centre was also requested, in order to test various possible operating scenarios, obtaining conclusions about which are the best values to choose for the decision variables existing in the warehouse.
The solution proposed by the FCTUC student was based on a planning methodology that could improve the efficiency of the distribution centre. “It was possible to obtain results in the level of customer service above 99%, improving the performance indexes of the warehouse in relation to the previously existing values, and with the possibility of reducing the workforce during the days when there are not too high demand peaks”.
For Paulo Nascimento, the participation in this type of competition is “extremely important, as it allows us to escape a little from the academic context and to have contact with what awaits us outside the university, not only in relation to the type of existing problems, but also to their own complexity. In addition, the requirement that is necessary in this type of projects is something that any student should go through, since it allows us to develop both professional and personal skills that will be essential for entering the job market”.
This simulation project was supervised by Professor Samuel Moniz, who highlights the importance of students’ participation in these initiatives, “because they allow the development of skills in fundamental topics of Industrial and Management Engineering, such as the digital transformation of systems or the modelling of complex problems”. Moniz still adds that “the simulation of systems has the ultimate objective of boosting innovation and increasing the efficiency of processes, whether they are logistic centres, supply chains, or hospitals, etc.”.
Source: University of Coimbra