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Getting Started with FlexSim   

What is FlexSim?

FlexSim is a powerful analysis tool that helps engineers and planners make intelligent decisions in the design and operation of a system. With FlexSim, you can build a 3-dimensional computer model of a real-life system, then study that system in a shorter time frame and for less cost than with the actual system.

As a "what-if" analysis tool, FlexSim provides quantitative feedback on a number of proposed solutions to help you quickly narrow in on the optimum solution. With FlexSim's realistic graphical animation and extensive performance reports, you can identify problems and evaluate alternative solutions in a short amount of time. By using FlexSim to model a system before it is built, or to test operating policies before they are actually implemented, you will avoid many of the pitfalls that are often encountered in the startup of a new system. Improvements that previously took you months or years of trial-and-error experimentation to achieve can now be attained in a matter of days and hours using FlexSim.


In technical terms, FlexSim is classified as a discrete-event simulation software program. This means that it is used to model systems which change state at discrete points in time as a result of specific events. Common states might be classifications such as idle, busy, blocked or down, and some examples of events would be the arrival of customer orders, product movement, and machine breakdowns. The items being processed in a discrete-event simulation model are often physical products, but they might also be customers, paperwork, drawings, tasks, phone calls, electronic messages, etc. These items proceed through a series of processing, queuing and transportation steps in what is termed a process flow. Each step of the process may require one or more resources such as a machine, a conveyor, an operator, a vehicle or a tool of some sort. Some of these resources are stationary and some are mobile; some resources are dedicated to a specific task and others must be shared across multiple tasks.

FlexSim is a versatile tool that has been used to model a variety of systems across a number of different industries. FlexSim is successfully used by small and large companies alike. Roughly half of all Fortune 500 companies are FlexSim clients, including such noted names as General Mills, Daimler Chrysler, Northrop Grumman, Discover Card, DHL, Bechtel, Bose, Michelin, FedEx, Seagate Technologies, Pratt & Whitney, TRW and NASA.

There are three basic problems which can all be solved with FlexSim:

  1. Service problems – the need to process customers and their requests at the highest level of satisfaction for the lowest possible cost.
  2. Manufacturing problems – the need to make the right product at the right time for the lowest possible cost.
  3. Logistic problems – the need to get the right product to the right place at the right time for the lowest possible cost.

Examples of How FlexSim is Used

To give you ideas for possible projects, FlexSim has successfully been used to:

  • improve equipment utilization
  • reduce waiting time and queue sizes
  • allocate resources efficiently
  • eliminate stock-out problems
  • minimize negative effects of breakdowns
  • minimize negative effects of rejects and waste
  • study alternative investment ideas
  • determine part throughput times
  • study cost reduction plans
  • establish optimum batch sizes and part sequencing
  • resolve material handling issues
  • study effect of setup times and tool changeovers
  • optimize prioritization and dispatching logic for goods and services
  • train operators in overall system behavior and job related performance
  • demonstrate new tool design and capabilities
  • manage day-to-day operational decision making

FlexSim has been used successfully in both system design studies and in the managing of systems on a day-to-day operational basis. FlexSim has also been used for training and educational purposes. A FlexSim training model can provide insight into the complex dependencies and dynamics of a real-life system. It can help operators and management not only learn how a system operates, but learn what happens when alternative procedures are implemented. FlexSim has been used to build interactive models which can be manipulated while the model is running in order to help teach and demonstrate the cause and effects inherent in system management.


FlexSim is a highly visible technology that can be used by forward-thinking marketers to elevate their company's image and to declare to the outside world that their company takes pride in how it operates.

It is surprising how effective an animated simulation model can be at getting management's attention and influencing their way of thinking. The animation displayed during a simulation provides a superb visual aid for demonstrating how the final system will perform.

flexsim users manual
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paul.t contributed to this article


FlexSim 2016.1