August 1996 € Volume 23 € Number 4

Winter Simulation Conference

The premier forum on simulation practice and theory celebrates three decades of progress

By James R. Wilson

The Winter Simulation Conference (WSC) is the premier international forum for disseminating recent advances in the field of system simulation, with the principal focus being discrete-event simulation and combined discrete-continuous simulation. In addition to a technical program of unsurpassed scope and quality, WSC provides the central meeting place for simulation practitioners, researchers, and vendors drawn from all disciplines and from the industrial, governmental and academic sectors.

From another perspective, the Winter Simulation Conference represents a remarkable collaborative effort which has been led entirely by volunteers for nearly three decades, resulting in a unique, long-standing cooperative arrangement among eight major professional organizations. Via the INFORMS College on Simulation, members of the operations research/management science community have played a key role in the growth and development of the conference throughout its history.

Conference Overview
The Winter Simulation Conference features tracks devoted to leading-edge developments in modeling methodology, analysis methodology, manufacturing applications, military applications and general applications. Moreover, WSC offers an invaluable educational opportunity for novices and experts alike, with a large segment of each program devoted to introductory tutorials, advanced tutorials and state-of-the-art reviews that are carefully designed to address the needs of simulation professionals at all levels of expertise and that are presented by prominent individuals in the field.

Issued to each registrant at the beginning of the conference, the Proceedings of the Winter Simulation Conference contains complete documentation on the technical program.

Of particular interest to virtually all attendees are the software/modelware tutorials as well as the exhibits by software and hardware vendors covering the full spectrum of commercial simulation products and services.

Rounding out the attractions of WSC are meetings of several professional societies and users' groups along with social events that give attendees many opportunities to get acquainted and to become involved in the ongoing activities of the international simulation community.

Program Scope and Layout
In recent years the WSC program has been organized into broad subject-area categories (or tracks) that reflect the current state of the simulation field as well as the mix of interests and professional orientations of conference attendees. Although the content and structure of these tracks varies to some extent from year to year, generally each WSC contains tracks organized along the following lines:

  • Introductory Tutorials, Advanced Tutorials and State-of-the-Art Reviews -- Expository presentations on current or emerging simulation practice. Introductory tutorials are designed for newcomers who are interested in the basics of simulation. Advanced tutorials are oriented toward more experienced professionals who do not necessarily specialize in simulation research but who seek the latest modeling and analysis tools and techniques for advanced applications in a particular industry or discipline. State-of-the-art reviews give practitioners and researchers a survey of recent fundamental advances in the theory of simulation modeling and analysis.
  • Software and Modelware Tutorials -- Expository presentations on simulation languages as well as software and hardware systems for specification, development, documentation, management, animation and presentation of simulation models.

  • Modeling Methodology -- Discrete-event and combined discrete-continuous simulation; concepts and techniques for general systems modeling; model specification and development; support environments; animation; knowledge-based simulation; object-oriented simulation; parallel and distributed simulation; artificial intelligence; software engineering; verification, validation and testing.

  • Analysis Methodology -- Modeling, fitting, and generating stochastic input processes; start-up techniques; experimental design; metamodels; output analysis; statistical graphics; optimization; sensitivity analysis; ranking and selection procedures; efficiency improvement (variance reduction) techniques.

  • Manufacturing Applications -- Cellular systems; computer integrated manufacturing; facilities planning; flexible systems; materials handling; production and inventory control; on-line control; robotics; scheduling; warehousing and distribution; virtual manufacturing.

  • Military Applications -- Military systems; battlefield simulation; evaluation of strategies; graphical techniques.

  • General Applications -- Transportation systems; agriculture; computer and communication systems; construction engineering; energy systems; environment; financial models; government (e.g., policy planning and regulation); health systems; service systems; simulation education; simulation in education.

  • Poster Session -- Informal poster presentations on a variety of topics of current interest to the simulation community.

  • Ph.D.-Student Colloquium -- The INFORMS College on Simulation invites doctoral students to present short research summaries.

    Conference Administration
    From its inception, WSC has been distinguished by its broad base of interest and sponsorship. In addition to the INFORMS College on Simulation (INFORMS/CS), the following professional organizations sponsor WSC by selecting a representative to serve on the WSC board of directors and by supplying seed money for each year's conference: American Statistical Association (ASA); Association for Computing Machinery/Special Interest Group on Simulation (ACM/SIGSIM); Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Computer Society (IEEE/CS); Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society (IEEE/SMCS); Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE); National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and The Society for Computer Simulation, International (SCS). Each year the seed money and any surplus from the previous WSC are returned to the sponsoring societies.

    The WSC board of directors is responsible for long-term administration and policy making for the conference. Generally each board member serves for eight years, giving WSC stability and continuity. Several years in advance of a particular conference, the board selects the leaders of the conference committee for that WSC, including the general chair, the associate general chair (who is the general chair for the following WSC), the program chair, the associate program chair (who is the program chair for the following WSC), and the business chair. Each conference committee consists entirely of volunteers drawn from the sponsoring organizations; and throughout the history of WSC, a relatively large number of conference leaders have been members of INFORMS/CS.

    The program chair forms an all-volunteer program committee that includes the proceedings editor, the associate proceedings editor and the track coordinators. Within each track of the program described above, the assigned track coordinator is responsible for organizing a coherent set of sessions covering selected topics of current interest. Each track coordinator also recruits session chairs and arranges for referees to review the papers that are submitted (or invited) for inclusion in the corresponding track. Historically the acceptance rate for contributed papers has been about 50 percent, and the final program for each WSC has consisted of roughly equal numbers of invited and contributed papers.

    Because several hundred libraries worldwide obtain the Proceedings of the Winter Simulation Conference each year through IEEE's open-order program, this publication has become the primary archival outlet for rapid dissemination of leading-edge developments in system simulation. The editor and associate editor perform all duties required for timely publication of the hardcover Proceedings. Beginning in 1997, the WSC Proceedings will also be published on compact disk (CD). The extraordinarily high quality of the WSC Proceedings is a direct result of the intensive, closely coordinated efforts of the program chair, the proceedings editors, the track coordinators, and the referees as well as the authors.

    Highlights of WSC '96
    The 1996 Winter Simulation Conference will be held Dec. 8-11, 1996, at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif. The theme of the conference will be "Surfing the Future." The first day of the conference will feature an orientation for first-time attendees, the poster session, the Ph.D.-student colloquium, and a special reception for all attendees to be held in the exhibit area in honor of WSC's international attendees. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Karl Kempf, principal scientist for manufacturing systems at Intel Corp. Spotlighting the area of manufacturing simulation, Dr. Kempf will survey current applications at Intel together with directions for the future of the area.

    The WSC '96 program will consist of 215 presentations in 99 sessions organized into 11 parallel tracks with the following composition: 179 full-length technical papers (including 12 introductory tutorials, nine advanced tutorials, and six state-of-the-art reviews), 32 software/modelware tutorials, and four panel discussions. Particularly noteworthy are sessions on virtual reality and web-based simulation as well as sessions on parallel and distributed simulation for communications/computer networking and military applications. Special emphasis is also given to applications in transportation, health systems and education. For additional information, interested readers should visit the WSC website:

    Conference and hotel registration forms along with the WSC '96 Preliminary Program may also be obtained by contacting the Talley Management Group (phone: 609-845-1720; fax: 609-853-0411; E-mail:

    Future WSCs
    To participate in future WSCs as a speaker, panelist, exhibitor, session chair or as a member of the conference committee, interested readers should start planning now. The 1997 Winter Simulation Conference will be held Dec. 7-10, 1997, at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta, Ga. The theme of the conference will be "The Shortest Distance from Research to Application." The keynote speaker will be Dr. Ward Whitt of AT&T Bell Laboratories, a world-class researcher and outstanding speaker whose work has had a significant impact not only on the practice and theory of system simulation but also on the broader mathematical sciences.

    To underscore the theme of WSC '97, the program will include a special-focus track entitled "From Research to Application." For additional information, contact David H. Withers, the WSC '97 general chair (LEXIS-NEXIS, P.O. Box 933, Dayton, OH 45401, USA; phone: 513-865-1912; fax: 513-865-1655; E-mail:, or Barry L. Nelson, the WSC '97 program chair (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, 2225 North Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-3119, USA; phone: 847-491-3747; fax: 847-491-8005; E-mail:

    Every three years WSC returns to its "home base" in the Washington, D.C., area. The 1998 Winter Simulation Conference will be held Dec. 13-16,1998, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. For additional information, contact John S. Carson, the WSC '98 general chair (E-mail:

    Brief History
    Although in some sense the origins of the Winter Simulation Conference can be traced to certain computing seminars held in the late 1940s, the impetus to hold a national conference on the scale of the current WSC took shape in the spring of 1967. The Conference on Applications of Simulation Using the General Purpose Simulation System (GPSS) was held Nov. 13-14, 1967, in New York City. The general chair was Harold G. Hixson, the program chair was Julian Reitman, and the publicity chair was Arnold Ockene. Acting entirely on their own initiative, these individuals arranged for ACM, IEEE and SHARE to co-sponsor the conference, which had a planned attendance of 225 and an actual attendance of 401.

    The scope of the 1968 conference, also held in New York, was expanded to include papers on any simulation language or any aspect of simulation applications. As a result, the conference grew to 22 sessions with a total of 80 papers. Sessions on statistical considerations, development of new languages, and tutorials on new languages complemented the applications sessions. Attendance jumped to 856. The 1968 conference committee published a 368-page Digest of the Second Conference on Applications of Simulation.

    Much of the structure and traditions of what is now known as the Winter Simulation Conference crystallized during the period 1969-1974. The Third Conference on Applications of Simulation was held in 1969 in Los Angeles. In addition to the previous sponsors, the 1969 conference also gained sponsorship from the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (now known as IIE) and The Institute of Management Sciences/College on Simulation and Gaming (now known as INFORMS/CS). The conference Proceedings totaled 513 pages, and it established the basic Proceedings format followed in all subsequent years.

    In 1971 the official conference title was changed to Winter Simulation Conference: Fifth Conference on Applications of Simulation. The attendance at WSC '71 was approximately 1,200 -- the largest attendance of any WSC. ORSA became a sponsor of the conference in 1974.

    By 1975 the ad hoc nature of WSC's administration had completely broken down, and the conference planned for that year did not take place. The rebirth of WSC in 1976 was largely due to the initiative of Robert G. Sargent and the work of Paul F. Roth, Harold Joseph Highland and Thomas J. Schriber. Sargent, a professor at Syracuse University, advanced the idea of reviving and stabilizing the conference by enlisting the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now known as NIST) as an additional co-sponsor of a 1976 Bicentennial Winter Simulation Conference. Roth was then an NBS employee and chair of ACM/SIGSIM, and he convinced his superiors at NBS of the merits of Sargent's proposal. Highland, then a professor at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, agreed to be general chair for WSC '76. Schriber, a professor at The University of Michigan, agreed to be program chair for WSC '76; and Sargent agreed to be associate program chair.

    In keeping with a tradition upheld by many members of INFORMS/CS over the past three decades, both Sargent and Schriber continue to make significant contributions not only to WSC but also to the operations research/management science community. With a board of directors and a set of bylaws in place to ensure timely planning and continuity in the operation of future conferences, the Winter Simulation Conference was given a new lease on life in 1976.

    Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, WSC has grown and evolved to address the constantly changing interests of the simulation community. Beginning in 1984, each WSC has featured an exhibit area in which vendors may demonstrate their software products to interested attendees. In 1985 the American Statistical Association became a WSC sponsor. In 1986 the program was substantially expanded with the addition of two tracks devoted to software/modelware tutorials as well as a track devoted to manufacturing simulation. The INFORMS/CS began sponsoring the Ph.D.-student colloquium in 1988. Since 1990 the review process for contributed papers has been strengthened and formalized, with written referees' reports being provided to the author(s) for every contributed paper. The poster session was introduced in 1993.

    In addition to reaching a high level of maturity and professionalism over the past 29 years, the Winter Simulation Conference has grown steadily in attendance. In recent years conference attendance has averaged in the mid-600s.

    Further advances in system simulation will require coordinated improvements in education, methodology, and software and hardware development together with innovative, intelligent applications of simulation technology. By providing a common, broadly based forum for the great diversity of interests and orientations among the members of its sponsoring organizations, the Winter Simulation Conference will continue to serve as a catalyst for the interactions between simulation professionals in academia, government and industry that are essential to future progress of the field.

    James R. Wilson is a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at North Carolina State University. He can be reached via E-mail at:

    For more information on theis article, put the number 7 in the appropriate space on the
    Reader Service Form

    E-mail to the Editorial Department of OR/MS Today:

    OR/MS Today copyright 1997, 1998 by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. All rights reserved.

    Lionheart Publishing, Inc.
    2555 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 299, Atlanta, GA 30339 USA
    Phone: 770-431-0867 | Fax: 770-432-6969

    Web Site Copyright 1997, 1998 by Lionheart Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Web Design by Premier Web Designs, e-mail