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Motivations and barriers in using distributed supply chain simulation

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Abstract

Discrete event simulation (DES) is a technique that is used by analysts to take informed decisions regarding an existing or proposed system of interest. DES models typically represent the processes associated with various business units. However, in the case of supply chains more than one business unit may need to be modelled as different organisations may be responsible for various supply chain operations such as manufacturing, transport and logistics, distribution, warehouse operations, etc. Organisations can be protective about their internal processes and can have concerns regarding data/information security and privacy. Thus it could be argued that creating a single DES supply chain model representing the various inter-organisational processes is usually not an option since this will run counter to organisational privacy. Further, issues such as data transfer, model composability and execution speed may also make a single model approach problematic. A potential solution could be to create several distinct and well-defined DES models, each modelling the processes associated with one specific supply chain business unit, linked together over the internet. We refer to this possible distributed approach as Distributed Supply Chain Simulation (DSCS). Although this approach holds great promise, there are technical barriers in using DSCS. The paper discusses the benefits and barriers of a distributed approach and then, using a healthcare DSCS, the technological feasibility is demonstrated. In conclusion, the paper argues that adopting a standardised approach to DSCS will remove a major barrier to its use.

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