aPriori, rationi viam ad sumptus! Caput I

When we last covered aPriori in 2007 and 2008 in aPriori and The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part III, they were very focussed on Enterprise Cost Management (ECM) and taking cost out of the design phase. Fast-forward six years later, and nothing has changed, except, of course, the depth, breadth, and usability of their platform — which has grown in leaps and bounds.

Unlike traditional sourcing applications, including advanced spend analysis and decision optimization, that are limited to component cost-based should-cost models, aPriori can also factor in design and production factors to model the full production cycle of the part you are buying (if it’s metal, plastic, or, in some cases, electronics-based) and give you a true understanding of what the part should cost to make. The reality is that the cost of a part is dependent not only on its design, but on the production process employed. As noted in our first post, a supplier that’s always made a certain part a certain way might not realize that new technology or materials would allow them to make that part significantly cheaper if they used a different process. Since the aPriori application instantly and directly interfaces with your CAD program and interrogates the solid model to extract the geometric cost drivers, the aPriori application can automatically determine all the process routings that can be used to make the part, compute the costs associated with each step based upon standard machine, material, and labor costs, and compute the total cost of each part on a per unit basis by factoring non-geometric cost-drivers such as production volumes, the selected supplier or factory set-up selected, and the exact routing and machines used. This is because the aPriori application currently supports over 200 out-of-the-box process models in over 12 major process groups (including, but not limited to, Bar & Tube Fabrication, Casting, Forging, Machining, Plastic Moulding, Powder Metal, Roto & Blow Moulding, Sheet Metal Sheet Plastic, Stock Machining and Rapid Prototyping.

In addition, because the application supports the creation of complete VPEs (Virtual Production Environments) that encapsulate the production processes, a customer can fully model the production and overhead costs associated with each production process supported by a factory in question, including local labour, power, maintenance, and other overhead costs to create a fully accurate should-cost production model, which can be compared to alternate production processes in the factory and other factories modeled with an appropriate VPE. This allows for the true identification of the lowest cost because, as the Sourcing Maniacs documented in their vendor tour post, the COGS is a combination of raw material costs, labor costs, production overhead costs, and margin and these costs not only vary by locale and production process, but in their interaction. For example, just because you identify three ways to make a part and each requires three steps, this doesn’t mean that each process is going to be roughly equal in cost. Not only do different processes require different amounts of manpower or energy (for energy-intensive equipment like lasers, etc.), but reordering the steps can change the manpower or energy required in subsequent steps.

Let’s take, for example, the production of the main Frame sides and door for a piece of heavy machinery construction equipment. An aPriori customer was cutting the entire frame using a laser process. While this seemed efficient, as only one piece of machinery was required, cutting the entire frame and door using a laser cost them 75.54 per frame and door combination, and they required over 14,000 of these combinations a year. That’s over a million dollars on just one part! If, however, as discovered by aPriori who analyzed the geometry and ran it through every possible production process that was available to the manufacturer, they switched to a two-stage production process that involved an initial laser cutting of the frame and door followed by an NC Punch process to punch out the internal cavities, the time required to produce a single frame and door combination decreased by 14 minutes and the cost decreased by 56% to 33.29 (as laser cutting is expensive compared to NC punch).

So what’s new with aPriori? Come back for Part II.