1.1 Simulation Modeling

In general, simulations can take on many forms. Almost everyone is familiar with the board game Life. In this game, the players imitate life by going to college, getting a job, getting married, etc. and finally retiring. This board game is a simulation of life. As another example, the military performs war game exercises which are simulations of battlefield conditions. Both of these simulations involve a physical representation of the thing being simulated. The board game, the rules, and the players represent the simulation model. The battlefield, the rules of engagement, and the combatants are also physical representations. No wishful thinking will make the simulations that you develop in this book real. This is the first rule to remember about simulation. A simulation is only a model (representation) of the real thing. You can make your simulations as realistic as time and technology allows, but they are not the real thing. As you would never confuse a toy airplane with a real airplane, you should never confuse a simulation of a system with the real system. You may laugh at this analogy, but as you apply simulation to the real world you will see analysts who forget this rule. Don’t be one.

All the previous examples involved a physical representation or model (real things simulating other real things). In this book, you will develop computer models that simulate real systems. Ravindran, Phillips, and Solberg (1987) define computer simulation as: “A numerical technique for conducting experiments on a digital computer which involves logical and mathematical relationships that interact to describe the behavior of a system over time.” Computer simulations provide an extra layer of abstraction from reality that allows fuller control of the progression of and the interaction with the simulation. In addition, even though computer simulations are one step removed from reality, they are often capable of providing constructs which cannot be incorporated into physical simulations. For example, an airplane flight simulator can have emergency conditions for which it would be too dangerous or costly to provide in a physical based simulation training scenario. This representational power of computer modeling is one of the main reasons why computer simulation is used.


Ravindran, A., D. Phillips, and J Solberg. 1987. Operations Research Principles and Practice. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons.