Driving Down the Cost of Manufacturing through Software
Kyle Maxey posted on May 12, 2015 |

One of the most challenging aspects of designing a product is managing the economics and logistics of its manufacturing. In fact, if a product’s manufacturing costs get out of control, it can spell disaster for that item even before it hits the market.

In the past, companies have tried to stave off this type of SNAFU by hiring a dedicated team to focus squarely on manufacturing costs. Obviously, that type of arrangement was expensive, and since it contained a huge human element, it was subject to errors.

That method is now in the past for certain companies who now do their cost analysis and manufacturing logistics with software.

CAD Analysis for Best Parts Costing

Last week I spoke with Rick Burke of aPriori and tried a demo of their enterprise-grade product cost solution software. From the outset, I was pretty amazed at what aPriori could do.

aPriori’s software starts its interrogation of a product’s manufacturing cost by actually analyzing the CAD data that makes up the component or assembly. Once the part has been imported into aPriori a number of factors can be defined to help the software’s engine make decisions about the best manufacturing route. 

Whether you’re just looking for a high level estimate (number of units, location for manufacturing, material) or a truly granular analysis of a product (mold and manufacturing happening in separate countries, time for assembly, user defined machining, tolerances), aPriori can generate a cost analysis for your product. Beyond a bottom line number, aPriori’s software can also tell you the country in which a product should be manufactured, what machines it should be built on and much, much more.

While that tool alone is powerful, aPriori’s algorithm is also intelligent enough to create mold features for a component—optimizing parting lines, the number of mold fixtures and other factors that can decrease the cost of manufacturing and operating a mold. After a mold has been generated, users have the ability to analyze, modify and interrogate aPriori’s decisions to see if they make the most sense for the product at hand.

Making Projections and Staying in the Black

In addition to its CAD interpretation abilities, aPriori also comes with a robust set of tools for generating data that can help facilitate better manufacturing and design decisions. Depending on how many filters and selections are made in the initial part analysis, aPriori is also capable of generating reports that can help companies see how costs may rise or fall in the future and offer managers insight into how costs can be managed.

One of aPriori’s greatest features is that it appears easy to use. For large manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace and defense industries, that kind of simplicity can be very valuable, especially since cost analysis can be so complex.

If there were one thing that I’d like to see added to aPriori’s software it would be to see it connect to specific factories and manufacturers and tell you which operators would be best to work with.

For companies that own their own factories this point isn't really an issue, but it would be helpful for smaller players to know when a factory is going to have machine downtime, whether they have the expertise to make a product or if they even have the machines that are required to build a part. As the machine to machine communications promised by the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality, hopefully that type of interconnectivity can be achieved in aPriori's software.

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