Virtual Production Environments

Digital Factories that Represent Real World Production Capabilities

manufacturing imageA Virtual Production Environment (VPE) is a model of a factory that is used by the aPriori application to produce cost assessments.

It can be configured to represent a specific plant, a class of suppliers, or a regional supply base. Costing a part with a given VPE allows you to understand the cost of manufacturing the part at the “factory” that VPE represents.



What Information is Contained in a VPE?

A VPE contains both data and logic which describe the physical manufacturing capabilities and cost accounting methodology at a given “factory”. This includes:

  • Supported Manufacturing Process Groups, Processes and Routings – A VPE indicates which manufacturing process groups, processes, and sub-processes can be performed at the factory. Similarly, it specifies the allowable sequences of those process groups and processes within the factory.
  • Manufacturing Feasibility Rules – A VPE contains rules that govern whether a given process, machine, or entire routing is applicable to a certain part or assembly. These rules generally leverage specific machine constraint information (see bullet 4 below).
  • Materials – A VPE contains tables listing the various material compositions which are present or available to the factory (e.g. 1020 cold-rolled steel, ABS 30% glass, etc.), in which forms (e.g. bar, sheet, billet, etc.), in which sizes (e.g. 2000mm x 1000mm sheet), and at what cost (e.g. $1.30/kg). These tables also describe material properties relevant to manufacturing such as density and hardness.
  • Machines, Machine Capabilities and Constraints – A VPE lists the machines available for each process and their various characteristics such as speeds, feeds, yields, material utilization, and so forth. This information is used by the aPriori Process Engine to calculate physical costs to manufacture a part or assembly (such as mass, cycle time, wear, etc.). The VPE also captures machine constraints such as maximum stock dimensions that can be accommodated by the machine.
  • Machine Time Standard Information – for each machine, a VPE captures values such as setup time, operator utilization ratios and other time standards that enable the aPriori Process Engine to compute labor time required from physical cycle times.
  • Machine and Tooling Accounting Rates – A VPE includes accounting rates (operator labor rates, direct overhead rates, indirect overhead rates, tool component costs, etc.) for each machine or tool shop. These accounting rates are used by the Cost Model Logic.
  • Process Model Logic – A VPE specifies equations and logic used by the aPriori Process Routing Engine. These equations are the actual transfer functions that take the Geometric Cost Drivers (such as part features, size, weight, tolerances, and surface finish) and Non-Geometric Cost Drivers (such as material, process group, factory, and production volumes) as inputs and output physical costs, i.e. mass needed, times required, tool characteristics needed and wear incurred. The process, machine, and material data described above are used in these computations.
  • Cost Model Logic – A VPE also specifies equations and logic used by the aPriori Costing Engine. These equations take the physical costs produced by the Process Model Logic as inputs and output economic costs (dollars and cents). The material costs and accounting rates described above are used in these computations.

aPriori provides Starting Point VPEs as out-of-the-box templates for building VPEs. aPriori publishes Regional Data Libraries that include economic data for regions around the globe and updates the data in them twice each year.  Each Regional Data Library represents average data for the specific region.  aPriori’s Starting Point VPEs represent an aggregate of plants and suppliers across its region.  They contain:

  • A super-set of manufacturing process groups, processes, and machines
  • A super-set of material compositions and stocks and their corresponding rates (for a particular time period)
  • Labor, Overhead and Material rates representative of the region (for a particular time period)
    aPriori’s industry-leading Process Logic for computing material utilization, routings, cycletime, tooling requirements and physical costs
  • A typical cost accounting methodology

aPriori Starting Point VPEs model broad and typical industry practices and capabilities, versus plant-specific optimizations or constraints. aPriori Starting Point VPEs produce a theoretical cost which represents the average of costs that would be incurred by all plants and suppliers within the region to manufacture a given part or assembly. Effectively, this cost is what one would expect to see in an open efficient market, if one sent out many quotes and calculated a median of the results.

aPriori Starting Point VPEs provide a robust starting point for customers to develop their own VPEs. They contain hundreds of manufacturing cost models that are populated with hundreds of material compositions and thousands of machines used in a global supply chain. The cost models and default setting and feasibility rules have been developed with hundreds of man years of research and collaboration with industry experts and leading manufacturers around the globe.

Configuring VPEs for Your Environment

In a deployment customers build their own VPEs using the aPriori Starting Point VPEs as a template. Typical configurations include a customer’s own material types, material pricing, manufacturing processes, machine types and attributes.  Furthermore, the logic that is provided within aPriori Manufacturing Cost Models can be configured to meet any specific requirements you may have in your manufacturing facility or supply chain environment.