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Reducing Bias in Data Analysis

Case Study with GSK

When planning for the future of your business, you sometimes need to see five, ten, or even fifteen years into the future. Giovanni Giorgio of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) reveals his reasons for using AnyLogic simulation software to handle the global capital investments of the pharmaceutical giant. Find out why static tools like Excel can distort your predictions and how to avoid wasting your budget when choosing simulation software.

Simulation modelling with AnyLogic gives you the freedom to create complex models and test your predictions more widely

Giovanni is tasked with making strategic decisions for GSK, like where they might build their next factory or if they should replace technical equipment in a plant. He designs the scope of the project but has ensured that the investment can be linked to genuine business requirements and priorities. In the early phase, it’s difficult to understand immediately what’s most important to a business.

A complex set of data can be interpreted in several ways, so proving a hypothesis is often the place to start. The problem is, that bias can influence results when choosing what to test. Inevitably, the results reflect what was expected; this is due to not exploring any alternatives because they have not been thought of.

Removing all bias from results is difficult but, rather than testing what is expected to be the answer, simulation modelling tests a range of possible answers and predicts possible outcomes. This was valuable for GSK because the pipeline in two years could look completely different from how it does currently. “We tried to build a model in Excel,” says Giovanni, “but it’s very difficult to model a lot of complexity in Excel. If you want to change something at some point, or if you want to give the model to someone else to do the analysis, it’s almost impossible. You end up building the model again from scratch because there are so many limitations.” This is why Giovanni made the switch to simulation software as it gave him greater flexibility to build more complex models for more sophisticated results. The simulation gave GSK a less biased view of where they might go in the future, but the software you choose has a big impact on your success. Quickly find out what you should focus on during your project and avoid wasting time on things that aren’t important. Before Giovanni started using AnyLogic software, the simulation team he hired spent 70% of their time building the interface they’d work from. Leaving only 30% of all of the resources for building the simulation model and running analysis — the crucial part of your project. “It was a huge waste of money,” says Giovanni. “The interface is just a means to build the model, it’s not part of what I’m trying to achieve,” he continues. “With AnyLogic, you have the interface from day one.” It’s built-in, ready for you to start working on your model right away. Starting early is a critical part of the simulation process for Giovanni. “The exercise of building a simulation model helps you to realise that there are some things you are not considering, or aspects you are over-considering,” says Giovanni. “The earlier you can start to build your model, the more value you get because you start building and then you realise that something is not right.” “Even without looking at the data, just the exercise of translating your business process into a simulation model helps you to ask the right questions,” he continues. “I understand better what is important and what is not. For the company, if I find a better way to do it, it means I ultimately deliver a better model for them.” Which means they can make better decisions.

Easily share your results with people at every level of the business to gain support for your findings and subsequent plans

When GSK were deciding between two technology choices, the gross margin that Giovanni thought would be the most significant deciding factor became irrelevant. Within just a few weeks, he discovered through simulation modelling that one technology would advance the company way faster than the other. And the benefits of that would far exceed the initial cost.

The biggest challenge then is to demonstrate what the model shows to others who don’t have a mathematical or engineering background. Regardless of how strong the findings are, change can not be implemented without first being able to communicate results to those who authorise it.

Unlike other software that will focus on static results, AnyLogic is designed to turn your data into a dynamic visualisation. Being able to present your results in this way, as well as observe the process in both 2D and 3D, makes it far easier to explain the logic behind the simulation. Showing how changes to the model can dramatically alter results. For GSK, an animation allowed viewers to see how a portfolio of new products would progress over time, what they see is a visual representation of their real-world scenario since it’s their company’s data sitting behind it.

Get expert advice from the UK AnyLogic team

Describing to non-technical people what the model is doing is a challenge that all simulation modellers face. As the UK AnyLogic specialist, SimulAI supports you with this on top of providing your licence. Offering training courses, one-to-one mentoring, and ongoing support.

“The team helped me a lot,” says Giovanni. “They’re keen to understand why you’re building the model; to know what the problem is, and they helped me find a lean way to build my models without having to add so many elements. That’s been useful.”

Build your proof of concept and find out what’s possible for the next big move forward in your business

Simulation modelling has saved Giovanni and his team a lot of time. Now that he can communicate his results more easily using AnyLogic he’s less isolated in his work too, drawing in support from people outside of his team.

“We’re having greater success now,” he says. “I don’t think I will have to think twice before jumping in and saying, we need to do more modelling and simulation — everywhere!” says Giovanni. “That barrier to explaining it is gone.”