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Innovative Approach to Modelling has Given Defence a Powerful Tool that Paves the Way Ahead

Promoted by BMT

BMT have been selected as a finalist in Australia's Defence Industry Awards for the 'Defence Innovator of the Year' category. This is thanks to our amazingly innovative approach to Discrete Event Modelling.

Promoted by BMT

BMT have been selected as a finalist in Australia's Defence Industry Awards for the 'Defence Innovator of the Year' category. This is thanks to our amazingly innovative approach to Discrete Event Modelling.

The Australian Defence Force has embarked on an ambitious capital program that will provide our nation with the future generations of warfighting capability. The Continuous Naval Shipbuilding program and the Land Combat Vehicle programs headline the ambitions for generating sustainable sovereign capability. Through lessons learnt from previous programs including the Collins Class submarines and ANZAC Frigates, Australia has taken a deliberate and integrated approach to strategic, capability investment and industry planning to guide the delivery of the future capability.

There is a demonstrated intent to ensure that the programs are delivering more than just capable platforms and that the fundamental inputs to capability are integrated from the start of the programs. The approach is exemplified by:

  • The integrated approach to the development of capability support systems.
  • Development of Sovereign Capability through a deliberate and planned implementation of Australian Industry Capability.
  • Developing procurement strategies that support a sustainable and enduring industrial base.

Substantive decisions are now being made that will shape the delivery of capability for decades. Each program on its own is challenging and complex, yet many of the decisions around facilities, infrastructure, workforce, and supply chains require an enterprise approach. The complexity of systems, processes and concepts provides the opportunity for decision support tools to support choices that will shape the next generation of capability. The Australian Defence enterprise is embracing modelling and simulation to support sound capability, acquisition and support system decision making.

Discrete Event Simulation in Defence

One of the modelling and simulation techniques utilised by Defence is Discrete Event Simulation. BMT has developed this capability over the last five-years, establishing the team and developing the know-how. The modelling and simulation approach allows organisations to test multiple scenarios within systems, processes, and operations. The tool, supported by the team, enables customers to investigate the future and understand the outcomes of decision-making before committing significant investment. 

Examples of different decision support applications of Discrete Event Simulation are:

  • Ensuring that the timing of infrastructure implementation does not impact the project or program schedule.
  • Analyse Vessel Usage Upkeep Cycles to optimise operational availability. Achieving two extra operational sea days annually per platform potentially equates to two additional years of operational availability over a class lifecycle.
  • Test armoured fighting vehicle geographic disposition and transport options to ensure cost-effective availability meets the training and operational requirements.

Why use Discrete Event Simulation

Discrete Event Simulation models the operation of a system which is driven by activities occurring at discrete instants in time (an event). The ability to focus on events allows the simulation of an entire process or capability lifecycle. Small improvements can equate to substantial savings across an enterprise’s capability lifecycle. It models and simulates the performance of real-life processes, facilities or systems and allows “what if” scenarios for problems of increasing size and complexity to be tested and compared. Uncertainty and risk can be incorporated into the model, providing a thorough examination of the system. The modelling is easily verified, and results presented quantitatively but importantly visualises the simulation, which supports stakeholder understanding and trust.

BMT has developed four primary artefacts that support the modelling and simulation process from identifying objectives of the simulation through to delivery of results and recommendations:

  • Master Data and Assumptions List (MDAL) serves as the primary source of data for the model. Data sources and assumptions are tracked, and data accuracy identified.
  • BMT uses the FlexSim 3D Simulation and Modelling and Analysis Software. FlexSim simulates the data imported from the MDAL and provides ‘real-time’ visualisation. Results are exported to CSV and HTML files for further analysis.
  • The raw output from the FlexSim model is processed into Results Analysis templates developed by BMT, for an interactive visualisation of results. 
  • A results comparison templates support the analysis of different scenarios.

The approach to developing the model often provides the customer with a different and occasionally new perspective on existing processes and systems. The initial steps require a thorough and complete understanding of the existing or proposed system or process and forces both the client and modelling team to critically examine each step. The modelling process is a collaborative approach with the customer’s subject matter experts and BMT’s team. BMT provides initial training on the model and its capability to support an effective partnership with the customer.

Typical steps in developing the model and subsequent simulation and analysis is as follows:

  • Customer objectives and requirements are defined.
  • Data collection and analysis to develop an accurate representation of the system or process being modelled.
  • Model development is usually based on the existing system.
  • The model is verified and validated.
  • Options and scenarios are simulated.
  • Results are analysed, and recommendations developed.

To maximise the effectiveness of the simulation, the initial steps are essential and need an engaged and knowledgeable customer to define the objectives.  BMT can conduct the latter phases of simulation and analysis, or the customer may choose to have the model delivered and then perform the simulation themselves, particularly suited when the underlying data is confidential. 

The BMT Team

BMT’s Discrete Event Simulation capability stepped through an innovation product process with the initial concept quickly transitioning to a fielded product. There was an imperative to support the initial team with additional resources so that the development of the capability could continue alongside an increasing demand for the product. Team development has focussed on university interns and graduates with a preference for software engineering, computer science or data science disciplines. This approach has been effective with the group, whilst junior, developing into a team of seasoned modellers. A significant number of the team joined BMT as interns and have continued their employment following graduation. 

The team have adopted an agile methodology to the delivery of simulations. The iterative process to model development and collaborative customer engagement has ensured the right product is delivered in a trusted environment. The BMT modelling team is Melbourne based, and the daily agile meetings have contributed to the group remaining focussed and engaged during the challenging COVID lockdown. The team has continued delivering quality support to customers during this unique and unprecedented time.

Discrete Event Simulation is a great tool that can help a range of clients from Defence to mining operations in simplifying complex, interrelated systems and makes improvements to strategic decision making. Through this tool we can assist clients with managing maritime assets in a cost-effective way. 

 

** BMT is supporting the Future Submarine Program with modelling of support systems and assisting the DDG Systems Program Office assess Usage Upkeep Cycle options.

 

Article by Ian Salter, Business Lead, Technology & Innovation Services, BMT

To contact Ian: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For more information about innovation at BMT, visit www.bmt.org/innovation 

Innovative Approach to Modelling has Given Defence a Powerful Tool that Paves the Way Ahead
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