Discrete-event simulation

In addition to the logic of what happens when system events occur, discrete event simulations include the following:

A system state is a set of variables that captures the salient properties of the system to be studied. The state trajectory over time S(t) can be mathematically represented by a step function whose value can change whenever an event occurs.

The simulation must keep track of the current simulation time, in whatever measurement units are suitable for the system being modeled. In discrete-event simulations, as opposed to continuous simulations, time 'hops' because events are instantaneous – the clock skips to the next event start time as the simulation proceeds.

Because events are bootstrapped, theoretically a discrete-event simulation could run forever. So the simulation designer must decide when the simulation will end. Typical choices are "at time t" or "after processing n number of events" or, more generally, "when statistical measure X reaches the value x".

Pidd (1998) has proposed the three-phased approach to discrete event simulation. In this approach, the first phase is to jump to the next chronological event. The second phase is to execute all events that unconditionally occur at that time (these are called B-events). The third phase is to execute all events that conditionally occur at that time (these are called C-events). The three phase approach is a refinement of the event-based approach in which simultaneous events are ordered so as to make the most efficient use of computer resources. The three-phase approach is used by a number of commercial simulation software packages, but from the user's point of view, the specifics of the underlying simulation method are generally hidden.

A working model of a system allows management to understand performance drivers. A simulation can be built to include any number of performance indicators such as worker utilization, on-time delivery rate, scrap rate, cash cycles, and so on.

An operating theater is generally shared between several surgical disciplines. Through better understanding the nature of these procedures it may be possible to increase the patient throughput. Example: If a heart surgery takes on average four hours, changing an operating room schedule from eight available hours to nine will not increase patient throughput. On the other hand, if a hernia procedure takes on average twenty minutes providing an extra hour may also not yield any increased throughput if the capacity and average time spent in the recovery room is not considered.

Simulation modeling is commonly used to model potential investments. Through modeling investments decision-makers can make informed decisions and evaluate potential alternatives.

Discrete event simulation is used in computer network to simulate new protocols, different system architectures (distributed, hierarchical, centralised, P2P) before actual deployment. It is possible to define different evaluation metrics, such as service time, bandwidth, dropped packets, resource consumption, and so on.