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by ProcessModel Inc.

System Requirements: Pentium or better PC; Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0; 16 MB RAM; 40 MB free disk space and CD-ROM drive.

Professional Edition--$2,395
Standard Edition--$1,695

Contact: ProcessModel Inc.
32 W. Center St., Suite 209
Provo, UT 84603
Telephone: (801) 356-7165
Fax: (801) 356-7175

Visualize Your Process

No matter the industry, many of today's companies face the same problem as they try to streamline manufacturing processes and eliminate waste using such techniques as kaizen , lean manufacturing or just-in-time: how to predict the effect of process changes before investing money and labor in the change.

 The old method was to flowchart the process, create a spreadsheet that contained time and cost data for each step and, relying a great deal on intuition, start to manipulate process steps until the spreadsheet calculations yielded a process that achieved productivity and cost goals.

 Now, software packages like ProcessModel from ProcessModel Inc. let users flowchart processes on their desktop computers and then run process flow simulations, allowing them to perform what-if simulations to highlight bottlenecks and resource allocation problems.

 ProcessModel is fully integrated with the popular flowcharting package Micrografx Flowcharter and, as such, process mapping is as easy as dragging and dropping. ProcessModel layers its simulation on top of the Flowcharter engine by defining the symbols that users place on the flowchart according to their specific functions: the object being processed (i.e., paper, calls, products) is an entity, the task performed on the entity is an activity, the agent that performs the activity is the resource, a place where entities are held is storage, and finally, connections to other processes are links. ProcessModel provides a large selection of flowcharting symbols, grouped into palettes based on industry or process type. By default, each symbol represents one of the five symbol types; however, the user can change the types if needed.

 The user maps a process by dragging and dropping symbols onto the work sheet. Connections are created automatically, and the software has built-in symbol avoidance to prevent connecting lines from running through existing symbols. As symbols and connections are placed on the work sheet, the user provides relevant information for each. For entities this is nothing more than unit cost and any cost associated with nonactivity. For activities, ProcessModel allows a wide range of data to be input, including the time to perform the task, batch size (if batches are used), activity cost and hourly cost. Resource data includes the number of resources available (e.g., the number of operators available to take calls coming into a call center), resource availability and cost.

 One of the key benefits of this package is its ability to accurately simulate complex processes. This is accomplished through several randomness and interdependence options. For instance, the time spent on an activity can be defined as a random distribution rather than as a fixed time. Common distributions include triangular, normal and exponential, with several other continuous and discrete distributions also available. The user also has several choices to describe how an entity arrives at a process step: continuous, periodic, scheduled or order-based. The arrival can also be user-defined based on a schedule that simulates the entity's flow during a day or week. All flows into and out of tasks may be defined by conditional statements based on the values of variables set at various task steps.

 Once a process has been mapped in ProcessModel, the program can run a simulation (with or without animation) that moves entities through the process, calculating costs, resource utilization and other information. The ability to animate an entity flowing through the process may seem like a gee-whiz feature, but it does help the user to visually detect what may not be immediately obvious in a report. Bottlenecks, for instance, while possible to identify in a resource utilization report, are spotted easily during the animation. The professional edition has a very nice feature that lets the user define cost and cycle-time goals and the amount of variability for various resources and activities. Based on the data, ProcessModel will run multiple what-ifs, altering the variables in an attempt to reach the desired goals.

 Other features include item assembly and disassembly simulation capabilities, document splitting and tracking, prioritized or interruptive use of resources, and downtime specifications. All the usual flowcharting features are available: customizable graphics, text editing, auto connect/reconnect, symbol avoidance, export and import capability, and much more.

 Although ProcessModel is easy to use and the user manual is better than average, the company suggests that users take one of its training courses in order to take full advantage of the product's features.

 If process changes have you wasting time and money on guesswork, consider investing in ProcessModel so you can visualize your process and eliminate the guesswork.

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