Process Simulation Is Child's Play

Aug. 15, 2013
We All Need to Play a Roll, Perform a Task and Then See What the End Result Turns Out to Be
About the Author

Katherine Bonfante is senior digital editor for Control and Control Design. You can email her at [email protected] or check out her Google+ profile.

When you ask a child what he or she wants to be as an adult, chances are the child will think of becoming a doctor, astronaut, scientist, racecar driver, sports athlete or famous TV personality.

When I was asked that question, I surely did not say, "I want to be a journalist," and I can confirm my genius, six-figure-salary brother did not say he wanted to be a computer programmer. But here we are.

SEE ALSO: Simulations Branch Out

I remember playing with Barbie while my brother stacked boxes, buckets and any other object he had at hand. Whenever I asked him what he was doing, he would reply with things like, "This is a space shuttle," or building, tractor, dam, bridge, excavator and so on. Many times my Barbie improvised, and went from feminine doll to hammer, wrench, medical equipment and whatever else my brother got me to believe we were pretending to be.

These children's games got me thinking that the way we used to play and pretend to be things and people we were not is the same way today's advanced methods of simulating processes work. We all need to play a roll, perform a task — even if it's just in our imagination or on a computer screen — and then see what the end result turns out to be.

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Whether its playing dress-up and make believe, or now as grown ups using simulation processes, both are how we make our imagination and ideas come true.

Executive editor Jim Montague wrote the article, "Simulation: Prescription for Success," and in it he reports that machine builders use simulation software to design and test industrial equipment that in the end becomes the efficient machine engineers and machine builders always dream of.

The article focused on MTS Medication Technologiesand how the company had designed efficient drug packaging systems for 25 years, but now faced a new challenge. A European pharmacy company wanted to centralize how it supplied medicine to its retail pharmacies across regions and countries, and MTS stepped up to design a much larger retrieval and packaging system with more feeder stations, robots and other supporting devices than it had ever built before.

Building a machine with more feeder, robots and pallets in a complex packaging system was MTS's challenge, and thanks to its use of simulation software this challenge was successfully met.

Robert Barrett, MTS's controls, software and mechanical engineering fellow said pharmacies usually fill prescriptions by hand, and MTS's customer wanted to consolidate this process into one centrally located system.

Today's children might not use their imaginations and cardboard boxes as much as my brother and I did when we played pretend games, but kids today have iPads and computers with simulation software already in place that can help them build and visualize a lot easier and better all those machines and processes they come up with in their games.

Next time you see your kid in front of a computer, visualize another successful engineer in the making.