Product Design

aPriori Drives Product Costing into Early Stages of Design

12 Dec, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

New version simplifies decision-making for engineers to dramatically reduce cycle time and overall costs.


One critical factor for survival in today's manufacturing world is minimizing costs across the board — that's no secret. But if you're waiting until a design is nearly final before you evaluate production costs, you could be missing out on significant savings.

This week, we saw the launch of aPriori 2012r2 product cost management software, which aims to help design, engineering, sourcing, and manufacturing professionals quickly identify and remedy manufacturing costs at the point of origin in the CAD model. The solution drives cost awareness upstream to the earliest stages of new product development, when changes can deliver the most savings while taking a minimal toll on time and expense.

aPriori is designed for manufacturers of complex mechanical and electromechanical products, such as automotive, aerospace, industrial equipment, machinery, agricultural equipment, and high-tech products such as computers — or "anything that's manufactured through discrete manufacturers," said Rick Burke, vice-president of marketing. The software reads into virtually any 3D solid modeling software.

Help for Engineers

Julie Driscoll, vice-president of strategic marketing and product management, explained, "We looked at what engineers need [in the face of] time pressure, cost pressure. Cost engineers are valuable [to manufacturing organizations] but are focused on parts. We've added fine-grained control over costing so cost engineers can work with design engineers to quickly see variations and get a look at the effects of changes."

Burke added, "We've built these cost models in our system for different types of manufacturing processing, giving us the ability to make intelligent decisions for the engineer. For example, we can take a sheet metal design and determine which manufacturing options would be best. An engineer who may not know a lot about cost or manufacturing can very quickly make decisions, and make changes to see their effects."

The software also has improved in terms of evaluating and minimizing tooling costs, and it produces new reports to use when working with suppliers. Cost models associated with precision machining have been expanded as well for companies producing small to mid-sized amounts of extremely precise parts, Driscoll said. Low-volume complex product manufacturers can leverage aPriori's automated machining capabilities to accelerate cost estimates for milled and turned parts. "Early costing is important because they often use exotic and expensive materials," she added. The new version helps manufacturers better understand the impact of geometric tolerances on the cost of products.

Overall, the latest version offers expanded capabilities worth a look. Specifically, it enables users to:

  • deploy the technology across global manufacturing environments;
  • more effectively leverage data hosted in other critical enterprise applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems; and
  • communicate product cost information between all functional organizations involved in product definition and delivery.

What's New

aPriori leverages CAD and intelligent cost models to quickly generate detailed manufacturing analysis and cost estimates and quantify the impact of changes to product design, materials, manufacturing processes, volumes, and location. New capabilities in aPriori 2012r2 include the following:

  • Import of complex engineering bills of materials (BOMs) from ERP, PLM, or other enterprise applications. BOMs can be organized by unique functional groups, and end users can leverage the core aPriori cost engine to calculate costs for new components and subassembly designs and compare with target cost. The updated product cost can then be shared across the enterprise so that all functional organizations operate from the same product cost playbook.   

aPriori data import

aPriori 2012r2 imports complex BOMs from ERP, PLM, and other enterprise
systems so manufacturers can calculate costs for new components and
subassembly designs and compare them with cost targets. Click on the
video to view a demonstration.


  • A new Geometry Analysis Tool that displays geometric cost drivers in different colors based on the value of the selected property or output. Design engineers can look at a part and see a colored "heat map" of the part that offers a quick visual way to identify areas where they might want to examine alternatives. 

aPriori heat map

aPriori's new Geometry Analysis Tool with cost "heat map" enables engineers
to quickly identify the geometric cost drivers that are most expensive to


  • aPriori Virtual Production Environments (VPEs) can now be configured to inherit material and machine data and cost model logic from other VPEs (aPriori's digital representation of a real-world manufacturing factory). This allows the customer to more easily expand cost scenarios, study the impact of new tradeoff decisions, and streamline system maintenance.   
  • Simplified creation and refinement of cost estimates by consolidating inputs into a single menu panel. This helps design engineers and other cost novices more efficiently produce cost estimates when evaluating early stage design and sourcing alternatives.
  • Expanded capabilities to override preliminary data inputs. Cost engineers and sourcing specialists can more easily refine cost estimates for developing internal factory time standards or better supplier negotiations.
  • Authenticate users from different functional groups and geographic locations via Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), making it easier to manage and control expanded usage of the aPriori platform.
  • Updated regional VPEs now accommodate European material naming conventions and machine preferences driven by increasing demand for product cost management in Europe.
  • An enhanced progressive die model improves automated calculations for machine selection, material utilization, die station estimation, and tooling estimation.

Integrated Solution

Driscoll said, "This new product release elevates our technology platform to a new level, enabling our customers to better integrate and leverage information from other enterprise applications to support cost tracking in NPI projects, evaluate product design alternatives at the functional group or complete product level, and understand the cost implications of different tradeoff decisions. We believe product cost tracking is a critical component to a manufacturer's cost management strategy. aPriori is committed to providing a flexible costing platform that can support the tracking process or output cost information to other systems if a tracking process is already in place."

User Results

Customer case studies on the aPriori web site illustrate the cost savings and return on investment experienced by several customers. One such customer, Polaris, cut design cycle time by more than 50% and surpassed cost goals by more than 20% on the first product design evaluated using aPriori, the Ranger XP storage box. In its first year using the software, Polaris saved more than $800,000 on product costs and identified cost-avoidance savings of several million dollars, according to aPriori. Over the past three years, the company has reduced annual tooling costs by 50%.

Availability and Cost

aPriori 2012r2 is available immediately. Cost varies and is based on an annual subscription license model. A comprehensive solution including software, installation, training, consulting, etc., for a deployment of 15 seats would typically cost approximately $130,000–$140,000. The company reports that a majority of customers pay for the investment with cost savings obtained in the first one or two projects.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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