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5 Incentives for Automakers to Optimize the Manufacturing Process

 | March 21, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Cost and delivery necessitate early design and production insights for automakers
  • Manufacturing process models improve manufacturability, costs, sustainability, supply chain resilience, and agility

The Full Article:

Automakers are always under pressure to execute new product launches. They need digital solutions that provide a high degree of accuracy and efficiency via manufacturing process models. Moreover, such solutions should optimize manufacturability, profitability, and sustainability.   Companies that can simulate and enhance their manufacturing processes are better positioned to meet tight launch schedules, address risk, innovate faster, and increase profits.

aPriori’s manufacturing process models simulate manufacturing processes and deterministic routings to optimize production based on cost, sustainability, and manufacturability requirements. For example, stamping is essential in manufacturing automobile body panels, where sheet metal, typically steel or aluminum, is shaped using processes such as stamping, die cutting, and punching.

Effective product engineers ensure their designs are optimized for production via die-cutting machines or other processes/equipment. The sheet metal is then prepared by uncoiling, cutting, and cleaning before being placed in the stamping press. Finally, the press exerts a force on the sheet metal, causing it to conform to the shape of the die, producing the desired body panel. By using aPriori’s manufacturing process models, engineering, manufacturing, and purchasing professionals can explore production alternatives down to the machine level.

Engineers can validate the production process before physical implementation via aPriori’s manufacturing process models. By simulating the manufacturing processes and deterministic routings, engineers can identify potential issues (i.e., inefficient production sequences) before they arise in real-world manufacturing. It enables them to fine-tune product designs, adjust machine parameters, and improve the overall efficiency of the process.

aPriori applies its physics-based process models and deterministic routings based on 3D CAD models or virtual representations of an automaker’s physical products to gain manufacturability and sustainability insights early in the design stages. As a result, companies can innovate to reduce cost, a product’s carbon footprint, and delays such as engineering change orders (ECOs).

Explore aPriori’s manufacturing process groups and process models in greater detail.

Five Incentives to Optimize Manufacturing Process Models with aPriori

A recent PwC 2023 CEO Survey revealed 76% of CEOs were investing in automating processes and systems in the next 12 months, with 69% deploying the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and other advanced technologies. These results underscore why executives should optimize manufacturing process models via advanced technologies such as aPriori.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Automakers need to know potential cost outliers and manufacturability issues upfront – often before the design process begins. Cost constraints and tight delivery deadlines put pressure on automakers to ensure the manufacturability of every design and process in the product development lifecycle.

Being able to simulate manufacturing processes before product development enables automakers to circumvent cost and manufacturability issues. Identifying and mitigating design and production issues via the digital product twin (design), digital process twin (manufacturability), and digital factory (production) creates a seamless digital thread. Executing it early in the product development lifecycle is essential, saving time and money. Here are five reasons why automakers should implement them into their operations:

1) Manufacturability: Automakers must ensure that vehicles meet quality standards. Manufacturing processes such as stamping, injection molding, machining, and casting constitute some of the common parts most used by automakers. At the same time, automakers want to minimize the number of unique parts required to produce components such as electric vehicle (EV) drive trains. This reduces manufacturing and assembly costs during vehicle development. This base includes cost, quality, and sustainability. What’s more, they often are under pressure to boost productivity, necessitating a reduction in ECOs.

aPriori’s digital process twin then determines the best manufacturing method via manufacturing processes and routings simulations (e.g., injection moldings). Each facet of product development can consider production alternatives down to the machine level, identifying the best production process for manufacturability.

2) Cost: By utilizing manufacturing process models, companies can quickly locate parts that could be made more cost-effectively using a different production method. For example, aPriori can automatically analyze and identify cost drivers for large sheet metal parts by comparing production on multiple machines of different sizes. It saves money upfront too since there is no need to start with a physical factory or machinery. They also can get a better handle on overhead costs such as labor and electricity that are required in production.

Production planning and simulation can be done virtually, reducing capital expenditures and time. By utilizing aPriori and manufacturing process models early in the product development cycle, automakers can save money downstream. This step is essential since automakers need to cost in the early stages of product development – even before design.

3) Sustainability: A product’s early design determines 80% of its environmental impact throughout the lifecycle. Automakers can create sustainable components with accurate manufacturing process models, optimizing performance vs. weight ratio (e.g., lightweighting) to reduce fuel consumption and lower the total cost of ownership.

Automakers transitioning to EVs need to fully understand the manufacturing process before moving into production. Manufacturers then can use the digital factory twin to evaluate their supply chain’s CO2e across the value chain (Scope 3). It can be accomplished by creating a virtual representation of supplier factories and their own manufacturing locations.

4) Supply Chain Management: For automakers, the ultimate goal is to get to Zero RFQ as one aPriori customer did. Design can be impacted with aPriori and ultimately, influence all the other aspects (manufacturability, cost, sustainability, and agility/speed to market) including supply chain issues such as material availability. Manufacturers can simulate production based on a variety of materials, machines, and processes, improving their supply chain risk management. aPriori’s 87 regional data libraries globally facilitate faster quoting times, improve supplier relations and negotiations, and ensure that manufacturers can get the parts they need quickly and cost-effectively.

As more companies grapple with supply chain delay side effects, they will work towards integrating them into their operations rather than viewing them as a stand-alone. Being able to quickly understand the impact of the design on your supply chain intrinsically creates a resilient one.

5) Agility and Time to Market: No longer are design engineers and production siloed in their work. As a result, they can accelerate and improve product development throughout the lifecycle. Digital manufacturing enables all players within the product development lifecycle to work from the same centralized data and insights, which makes communicating and decision-making more cohesive. Creating a digital thread enables all product development departments to seamlessly connect and collaborate. Manufacturing process simulation removes bottlenecks between all team members across the product development lifecycle. Time to market improves and profitability increases in a highly competitive landscape.

Automakers are no longer physically limited via the production facility. Now, whether they are the design engineer, the supplier, or factory floor worker, the production process can be tapped into the digital factory anywhere, improving transparency and time to market. In the case of one aPriori customer, manufacturing simulation created an invaluable EV opportunity to innovate, streamline processes, and get their vehicles to market faster. Additionally, the manufacturer simultaneously met sustainability initiatives while identifying millions of dollars in potential product cost savings.

Learn how Eaton used manufacturing process insights to improve sourcing and build supply chain resiliency.

aPriori: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The expression “where the rubber meets the road” is certainly applicable to automakers. Those who use manufacturing process models can make important discoveries through meaningful analysis. They bridge the divide between planning and execution to keep automakers on the right track for cost and delivery.

Getting ahead of problems is essential to improving efficiencies, cost, and more. The best way to underscore the importance of optimizing the manufacturing process is in the words of one customer:

“Having a tool like aPriori allows your design and sourcing teams to say, ‘I have this part. I think there may be a better way to manufacture it.’ Instead of having to redesign the component, send it out to RFQ, and play the waiting game. We can make small changes to our digital simulation to skip all of that.”

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