Discrete event simulation

Discrete event simulation: Optimize workflow with a virtual process model

Discrete event simulation (DES) is a method of visualizing production processes over time to adjust and improve real-world facilities without disrupting operations.

automobile production line, showing robots and car unibody frame

What is discrete event simulation?

Discrete event simulation software models a sequential process—such as a production line or queuing system—by only including events in which a change of state happens, letting you see the impact of changes on production before implementing them.

Circuit board manufacturing production line

Improve efficiency and production with discrete event simulation software

Changes to any factory are expensive. The cost isn’t just in provisioning a new manufacturing or process instrument; it’s also the losses of stopping production while the changes are deployed and tested. The risks are that the new process isn’t an improvement over the old process and that costs could escalate—including investment in equipment and a slowdown in production—which will affect profits.

Discrete event simulation software is an Industry 4.0 technology that helps break manufacturing processes into distinct events, modeling them in 2D or 3D and testing proposed production changes in a virtual environment.

Discrete simulation software gives you a clearer picture of how changes will affect a live production environment before you go through the time and expense of implementing changes.

Imagine a production line in an automotive factory. In discrete event simulation software, every operation and every task—of human operators, material flow, or handling—along the line is modeled with a departure event and an arrival event. Breaking each operation or task into an event helps to visualize the movements to optimize output.

You can then adjust each event in turn or concurrently to support your output goals, whether that’s speeding up production, analyzing for supply-chain or production bottlenecks, or adjusting production levels according to market demand in real time.

When your facility and processes are modeled entirely in 3D, it also has potential as a digital twin.

Real-time data from equipment and processes can be collected through Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) frameworks and fed back into the simulation model, where an accurate, up-to-the-minute representation of the production processes can be used for any optimization analysis.

Benefits of discrete event simulation

Discrete event simulation software helps you analyze and optimize your production process to uncover bottlenecks without disrupting your current operations.

Digital vision

Redesign your production line, introduce a new operation or equipment, or change a process to understand the impact on the system, all in the software.

Deeper visibility

Identify bottlenecks, choke points, and failure vectors in the simulation and retune processes to minimize or eliminate problems.

Low-cost, low-risk experiments

Almost at your goals but need help to make it work? Discrete event simulation is a low-cost, risk-free method for iterating production changes.

Stay ahead

Meet your business objectives by optimizing your factory process in a risk-free virtual environment before committing to change on the shop floor. Then, when conditions inevitably change, do it again to maintain your production goals.

Innovation revealed

When you apply simulated variables to your discrete event model, better ways of working in your real-world process will reveal themselves.

Software for discrete event simulation

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Discrete event simulation resources

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) on discrete event simulation

What is discrete event simulation for manufacturing?

Discrete event simulation simulates the flow of materials, components, and finished products through a production facility to analyze bottlenecks and explore ways to optimize production in a risk-free virtual environment.


A discrete event simulation models a process where actions or procedures along the chain of events change the system in only one degree. That could be, for instance, a conveyor belt junction sending an object one way or another or a robot applying a screw or bolt where there wasn’t one before.


Discrete event simulation assumes that there is no change in state between a departure event and the following arrival event, so it models the behavior or process of a workflow in a compressed time and form for fast and accurate analysis.


Those analyses might predict performance results, discovering the variables resulting from the interaction between events or statistical modeling.

What is an example of discrete event simulation?

Every position or workstation along the workflow of a factory floor can be an event where the system undergoes a state change.


That’s not to say that the space required for a manufacturing production line is never considered in a discrete event simulation. In some cases, the state change might be in (or include) the transport system itself—for example, where it turns to fit adequately on the factory floor.

What are the common uses of discrete event simulation?

Manufacturing factory floor processes are an everyday use of discrete event simulation because they contain many relatively simple events—or can be broken into relatively simple parts with little or no state change between events.


However, discrete event simulation applies to many other areas. One example is queuing processes when customers interface with your company on a technical support, sales call, or in-person.


Discrete event simulation is also popular in medicine. Health care systems are adapted individually because they often contain complex steps and interactions between different providers and organizations, all with multiple variables that are hard to predict.


Health care interventions can use discrete event simulation to introduce different behaviors and decisions, ultimately identifying the best way forward when a patient presents with symptoms.