Cut Manufacturing Costs with Business Intelligence

June 27, 2014
Cost Insight extends aPriori’s enterprise product cost management platform to provide actionable, role-based views to help manufacturing and other organization members see cost saving opportunities early and often in product design.

A key component to controlling costs in production is evaluating costs before ever reaching the production stage. And yet, lacking the insight needed throughout an organization, manufacturers too often treat cost as an afterthought in product development. New reporting and dashboard capabilities from aPriori spread actionable, role-based views of profit and cost saving opportunities across an organization to make better cost-based decisions early and throughout product development.

Cost Insight is a new business intelligence capability that makes actionable product cost and profitability data available to engineering, manufacturing and sourcing managers and executives. Users can get self-service visibility into cost management initiatives and make real-time decisions based on product cost data.

“Cost had often been an afterthought,” said Julie Driscoll, vice president of product management and strategic marketing at aPriori. “We’re helping to bring cost much more forward in the process.”

The aPriori platform already enabled manufacturers to leverage CAD and intelligent cost models—including cost data hosted in other enterprise applications—to determine feasible manufacturing methods and to generate detailed manufacturing analysis and cost estimates that quantify the impact of changes to product design, materials, manufacturing processes, volumes and location in real time.

aPriori imports complex engineering bills of materials (BOMs) from ERP, PLM or other enterprise applications. “Part of one of the challenges our customers have today is cost isn’t widely available because they’re kept in disparate systems; it’s hard to get a consolidated view,” Driscoll said. “ERP is really good at production costs. But before it goes into production, it’s a much harder proposition.”

What Cost Insight adds to the equation primarily is intuitive and easy-to-use reporting of the cost driver data. It offers role-based insights that are web-enabled for anytime, anywhere access. “It’s reporting and dashboard capability to enable much richer analysis,” Driscoll said. “It can really help visualize the data and help people understand trends over time. Maybe they’re comparing feature sets for a product and they want to understand cost differences. This provides much more visual and ad hoc analysis.”

The information is available to a wider set of individuals, Driscoll added. “With Cost Insight, one thing that different is that it’ll be used by the same folks, but it also makes data more accessible for other people who want to consume the data,” she said. “They can take advantage of visual reports and dashboard layouts rather than going into the application.”

Driscoll offered several examples of how the software could be used in product costing. One way is for manufacturing to provide input into routing options early on in design engineering. Manufacturing personnel could go into the system and review the design, and offer suggestions based on the lowest-cost routing options.

Another way for manufacturing to help cut costs is to identify parts that are very complex—reducing complexity to reduce costs. “They can flag parts that they can collaborate on with engineering to simplify,” Driscoll explained, noting the benefit of single-part stamping vs. welded parts, for example. “When you can take out a manufacturing process, that can help drive substantial efficiencies.”

Manufacturing facilities could also use Cost Insight to justify investment in new machines. “What if I’m considering buying a turret press, and today I cut everything out on a laser? What would be the cost impact?” Driscoll asked. “They can use aPriori for estimating and helping to build their business case to help justify the cost of a new machine.”

Features of Cost Insight include a reporting data mart with automated/scheduled export of data from the aPriori product cost management platform; powerful export, transform and load (ETL) data integration for connecting aPriori to other enterprise systems and applications; business intelligence tools including ad hoc reporting, dashboard creation and a production report authoring tool; and out-of-the-box reports and dashboards to support key cost management processes such as outlier analysis and product cost tracking.

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