In recent years Optika Solutions has been involved in modelling large, complex supply chains which have depended heavily on detailed simulation of rail networks. Rail operations had a significant impact on tonnage throughput, grade variability and financial gains/penalties. Since the purpose of modelling included measuring impact on net revenue and evaluation of management strategies, it was important to capture rail behaviour to a level of accuracy that goes beyond many simpler logistical models.
Examples of the degree of rail complexity include:
- Scheduling of trains to meet optimised medium term ship consignment plans;
- Forward planning of train terminal interactions to avoid congestion at loading/unloading areas;
- Prioritisation of trains carrying “high demand” products;
- Modelling of standard passing behaviour on single and double track sections;
- Modelling of non-standard passing operations such as reversal on junction sections to allow passing;
- Physical detail such as acceleration, deceleration, wagon-by-wagon loading, cut-out of overload wagons etc;
- Constraints of crewing and rostering;
- Testing a variety of configurations to confirm rail design and planning methodologies.
In order to achieve the above requirements, Optika Solutions have developed a powerful yet flexible simulation platform that integrates rail into the planning and logistical modelling components. Standard rail management and movement allows rapid set up of models and yet can be replaced as required by customised modules to capture project specific behaviour. This provides a high level of project specific customisation and means that the level of rail detail included is determined by the level of modelling accuracy required, not by limitations of the modelling platform.
When modelling is being used to measure the impact of rail on total system behaviour and costs, it requires not only capturing the physical rail interactions but also accurately reflecting the management approaches that are applied in practice at various levels within the system. The may extend from high-level planning including ordering of ships and planning of shipment cargoes, to mid-level planning in which train movements are scheduled to meet panned operations, down to low-level planning such as management of particular train trips to avoid congestion and manage movement delays. Only accurate modelling of the planning operations allows the impact of these operations to be evaluated, hence testing and improved management approaches.
Optika’s modelling capabilities are highly suited to complex, whole-of-system mine to port modelling which involves interplays of logistical goals, grade quality constraints, and cost mitigation management. Model operations may be defined heuristically, but equally may involve degrees of optimisation that reflect human decision-making in response to a wide variety of factors. The ability to combine business driven management with physically accurate and detailed modelling provide an unparalleled modelling capability for large logistics-chain businesses.