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Discrete Event Simulation Using Excel/Vba

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Computed Simulation and Animation

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.482.1 - 10.482.11



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Paper Authors

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Jessica Matson

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David Elizandro

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Discrete Event Simulation Using Excel/VBA David Elizandro and Jessica Matson Tennessee Technological University


The spectrum of discrete event simulation modeling courses in industrial engineering programs varies from an emphasis on learning concepts of discrete event simulation to modeling simple systems using a commercially viable simulation language. Often, when the emphasis is on learning a commercial language, much of the course becomes training at the expense of concepts. As a result the student has a basic understanding of the language and modeling but limited understanding of discrete event simulation concepts. In either case, modeling complex systems is problematic because students will lack sufficient knowledge of simulation concepts to understand nuances of the language or sufficient experience with constructs to be proficient with a commercial language. However, it is relatively easy to learn details of a simulation language for students who understand discrete event simulation and modeling concepts.

Excel/VBA is a ubiquitous software package with easy to use input and output features. Also, the statistical features of Excel overcome major limitations of modeling discrete event systems in a traditional procedural language. This paper examines a one-semester course in discrete event simulation that utilizes Excel and VBA to overcome limitations of traditional approaches for teaching simulation.


Discrete event simulation is a tool that enables the user to compress time and study system performance characteristics. However, in order to perform simulation modeling, students must be able to define critical system component relationships as a function of time. Also, these relationships must be represented in software. In essence, students must learn concepts of discrete event simulation, acquire software development skills, and at the same time develop a global understanding of modeling concepts.

Students learn discrete event simulation concepts and terminology such as transactions, transaction attributes, and transaction movement in the model. System performance characteristics such as transient response and steady state cycle time, average queue lengths, time in the queue, and server utilization are expressed statistically using confidence intervals. Also a simulation language requires a student to rethink program control because segments of code operate “simultaneously.” Such a course can easily overwhelm students.

Most discrete event simulation courses in industrial engineering emphasize modeling concepts. However, the discrete event simulation portion of the course varies from an emphasis on learning concepts of discrete event simulation to learning a commercially viable simulation language to model simple systems. Often, when the emphasis is on learning a commercial language, much of

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Matson, J., & Elizandro, D. (2005, June), Discrete Event Simulation Using Excel/Vba Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14706

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