Technologies Of The Year -- DFM Concurrent Costing Version 2.0

Dec. 21, 2004
Early-stage 'should-cost' estimating helps engineers select the most effective materials and manufacturing processes for new parts.

Up to 80% of the cost of a new part is locked in during the early design phases where material and manufacturing processes are defined. In the past engineers relied on historical factors to cost-out new parts, or turned the task over to purchasing after the design was finalized. In the first case this approach doesn't work with new innovations. In the second case, changes made to cut costs after the design is complete are very expensive. Introduced in August, a new cost-estimating tool called DFM Concurrent Costing 2.0 from Boothroyd Dewhurst Inc., Wakefield, R.I., not only allows "pure" costing of materials and manufacturing technique at the earliest of design phases, it allows engineers to investigate the cost impact of alternate manufacturing processes they may not even be familiar with. For instance, the cost of a part normally created by sheet metal bending can be compared with the cost to injection mold the same part. The impact of different part geometries and secondary operations on cost also can be scrutinized. Thus, the effect of applying the software is to minimize new-product development costs, and allow engineering to work more closely with suppliers to cut costs of outsourced parts. "Purchasing no longer has to be the sole source of cost information," says Nicholas Dewhurst, executive vice president. "Now design, manufacturing and quality engineers can all have their heads tied around cost." In the past Boothroyd Dewhurst had stand-alone costing programs for various manufacturing processes. However, built into version 2.0 is the science behind 23 different fabrication techniques in one package, allowing costing models for sheet metal processes, injection molding, structural foam molding, die casting, powder-metal processes, and forging, as well as machine set-ups and finishing. "Version 2.0 is the culmination of 10 years of work to bring all of these processes together in one solution, which also allows comparisons," says Dewhurst. The system works by taking part parameters, such as weight and wall thickness, and determining the time to fabricate a part with a certain process. In the case of injection molding, part size and configuration suggest machine size and clamp pressures, and wall thickness determines cooling rates. Average industry rate factors are applied to the fabrication times with a particular piece of equipment to arrive at theoretical processing costs. Input of rates and process times of specific equipment at a company or vendor customizes the result to zero-in on exact costs. This is exactly the approach in a new application of the product at Harley-Davidson Inc., where the company is working with 15 suppliers who now provide bids as well as the Concurrent Costing 2.0 reports on new parts based on their specific equipment. Rather than beat down the supplier's prices, Harley-Davidson is working with its vendors to reduce costs while allowing the vendor his profit margins. "At the core of our program is the understanding that real savings come from helping suppliers reduce the cost of materials and improve the manufacturability of their designs," says Cheryl Wood, new-product cost analysts, HarleyDavidson. "The software accurately models part costs, providing a quantitative basis for evaluating competing design alternatives."

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