Patrick Kirchhof, Research Assistant and Chair of Operations Management and Information systems, University of Osnabrück, Germany, spoke at Ashesi on Wednesday March 25. The venue, Lecture Hall 5 was so packed that some students had to stand. His topic, “Discrete Event Simulation”, drew students from all classes, faculty and some members of staff.

“I am pleased to be here at Ashesi and to speak with you about the use of simulation in evaluating performance of systems,” he said. He explained that simulation use was imperative in situations where there’s the need to experiment with real systems, existent or proposed. “Simulations allow the application of exact mathematical algorithms and this enables us to predict and reduce the incidence on unpredictability,” he added.

Kirchhof asked his audience to give example of situations where simulations are used given the background he had just presented. Answers included material and automotive-handling systems, transportation logistics and the military.

Kirchhof went on to show a simulation experiment for a manufacturing plant. Participants were encouraged to make inference from the simulation to real life. “Simulations provide a trade off between realism and simplicity when the element of randomness is considered” Kofi Manful, a senior, remarked.

One of Kirchhof’s real-life simulation examples, “if small-pox strikes Portland (U.S.A)”, was the creation of virtual models of exact locations in Portland. The plague, small-pox was then unleashed into “virtual Portland” to determine how social networks spread diseases and also to measure the government’s preparedness to solve the epidemic if it struck.

“This presentation has lured me into thinking about how simulation can be used to address Accra’s constant traffic congestion,” David Agbenyega, Class of 2009, stated.