Case Study

How to Use Digital Factories to Scale Microfactories


How can digital factories help to scale microfactories?

And how is digital manufacturing helping high-innovation industries like the EV segment to significantly out pace competitors?

In this case study, we’ll look at how Arrival implemented manufacturing simulation with digital factories to streamline design processes, implement rapid DFM and DTC, and scale their microfactories around the world.

Let’s dive in!

Company Details


Automotive Manufacturing

Number of Employees




aPriori Product

aP Design | aP Generate

The Problem

Support Flexible Supply Chain Development for Distributed, Small Footprint Automotive Microfactories

The Solution

aPriori’s aP Design and aP Generate Products Generate Design-Stage Cost and Manufacturability Intelligence

Who is Arrival?

Arrival aims to disrupt the automotive market by developing electric vehicles (EVs) that are competitive in price with traditional, internal combustion-based designs. They are currently working to bring their electric vehicles to market, with initial offerings to include two zero-emission commercial vehicles, a van and bus. 

Plans for a smaller vehicle in 2023 (alongside a recently announced collaboration with Uber to develop an EV tailor-made for ride sharing) showcase the breadth of Arrival’s imminent impact in the automotive industry.

“Arrival’s culture of innovation is not only centered around its vehicle products, but also its manufacturing and supply chain strategy. Every Arrival vehicle is produced in a low-cost, small-footprint factory called The Arrival Microfactory.”

What is a Microfactory?

Microfactories are manufacturing facilities that are carefully designed to offer flexibility, scalability, and the ability to support to local economies. 

Instead of having one central factory that serves the entire world, microfactories offer the unique advantage of serving customers at a global scale much faster. By placing factories in areas of the highest demand, companies like Arrival are able to scale, match sales volume, and serve customers where their products are most wanted.

Microfactories aren’t a brand new concept. But manufacturers are just starting to realize the power of connecting microfactories to digital factories with manufacturing simulation.

How Digital Factories are Ideal for Microfactories

Like Arrival’s microfactories, aPriori’s digital factories are flexible, fast, and can be customized to reflect the capabilities of different suppliers in different regions. 

Digital factories are a digital recreation of a factory in the cloud. They allow manufacturers to customize product cost inputs like overhead, labor costs, machining, tooling, available materials, and much more. Allowing the entire product team to design for manufacturability and design to cost much earlier in the product lifecycle. 

Digital factories enable rapid design and sourcing iterations, with automated cost and manufacturability insights available almost immediately.

A unique digital factory can be built for each microfactory, allowing businesses like Arrival to run product cost models for each of their microfactories around the world to achieve maximum savings.

How to Support and Scale Microfactories with Flexible Supply Chain Development

Arrival’s goal of developing unprecedented cost competitive EVs fuels an organizational culture dedicated to driving down the cost of products wherever possible.

“Arrivals' cost engineering group wanted to implement systematic use of a manufacturing cost modeling tool capable of supporting this mission-critical focus on cost optimization.”

The Arrival Microfactory requires cost modeling capabilities to work quickly when scaling up new facilities, reflect regional variations in manufacturing cost drivers, and support manufacturability and cost analysis that could be configured to reflect the capabilities of local suppliers. 

It also needs to bring the automation necessary to align with plans for an agile cost engineering team that can work cross functionally across different manufacturing processes. 

Microfactories will be used to support not only localized supply chains, but products tuned to customer needs in local markets. 

The Problem with Traditional Product Costing Methods

The truth is, cost is difficult to measure quickly, easily, and accurately. 

  • Estimates take time to compile
  • They require specialist skills and knowledge of the supply base
  • Subtle geometric change can restart the estimating cycle 
  • Cost is directly linked to geometry and will fluctuate as the design changes
  • Many other commercial dynamic factors that are difficult to account for

Arrival plans to overcome this longstanding tension between cost and customization. Their vehicles can be custom-tailored to the functional and budgetary requirements of different regions, organizations, and use cases. 

The scale of traditional automotive manufacturing means that designs are only viable if they can command large global sales volume for years at a time. Because the Microfactory enables sustainable unit economics even at smaller production volumes, Arrival has the freedom to produce vehicles purpose-built for end user needs. 

If these needs change, the Microfactory has the agility required to adapt in short order.

To support this Microfactory model, Arrival needs the ability to rapidly: 

  • Analyze cost and manufacturability for new designs
  • Source new parts and scale up local supply chains
  • Do so without impinging engineers’ ability to focus on great design

How to use Manufacturing Insights to Generate Design-State Cost Quotes

Is it possible to make product cost a measurable attribute by enabling the engineering team to quickly and painlessly create costs as they design?

The answer? Yes. 

Arrival’s approach is three pronged:

Empower Individuals

Empower Individuals

Empower individuals to cost locally without using cost engineering resources for every single instance. This enables cost awareness at the design phase. Not only that, but it puts the responsibility of early costing back with the individuals who design the concepts themselves. 

But the benefits of empowering individuals to cost doesn’t start there. Automated product costing can significantly reduce design lead time by hitting the right cost the first time. And it reduces reliance on suppliers for design to manufacture feedback.

Inform Process Models

Inform Process Models

Inform process models with specialist knowledge created by cost and manufacturing experts. This ensures process models within the digital factory are as accurate as possible and allows specialists to transfer knowledge to systems that can help them scale product costing.

Automate Where Possible

Automate Where Possible

Arrival also wanted to automate the data collection where possible to simply the process and gain valuable insights. This removes the reliance on engineers to remember to cost as they focus on what really matters to them.

“Ultimately, Arrival wanted to establish a single source of truth for cost and manufacturability analysis. Arrival uses aP Design to identify manufacturability issues to meet or beat their cost targets on their designs. With no input required from the designer, aP Generate automatically initiates a comprehensive manufacturing simulation as soon as the designer checks in a new or modified design to their PLM system.”

How aPriori’s Digital Factories Enable Microfactory Scaling

All of this is possible with aPriori’s digital factories. 

aPriori was initially introduced at Arrival to support design for assembly work. Early successes led Arrival’s newly created cost engineering group to see clear value in expanding aPriori’s footprint at the organizational level. 

If some manufacturing anomaly is identified, aP Generate proactively notifies the designer with an email communication directly to their inbox. 

Either manually or by clicking on a hyperlink from the notification, aP Design allows the designer to quickly upload and evaluate the identified component or assembly. 

They can study design variants and different material, process, and sourcing options that could address the manufacturability issue identified, and publish the best options for review with the broader team.

What are the Benefits of Digital Factories for Localized Microfactories?

Like Arrival’s Microfactories, aPriori’s digital factories are flexible, fast, and can be customized to reflect the capabilities of different suppliers in different regions. They allow for rapid design and sourcing iterations, with automated cost and manufacturability insights available almost immediately. 

The benefits of using digital factories to scale microfactories are many. They include:

  • Design engineers become a proactive influencer in the design to cost process. This solidifies the digital thread throughout the company.
  • Cost becomes a factor within the design phase, and not an afterthought 
  • Financial bill of materials matures earlier within the process – not only at milestones
  • Concept to completed time per part is reduced, resulting in faster time to market
  • Manufacturability assurance is achieved upfront 

With these capabilities, non-manufacturable or costly designs can be identified quickly, when engineers still have time to model design alternatives (and before waiting weeks for an RFQ response, only to discover a manufacturability issue). 

By bringing detailed cost and manufacturability intelligence as early as possible into the design process, digital manufacturing simulation also allows Arrival to eliminate wasteful feasibility loops and design churn with suppliers. 

“Rather than using the quoting process to gauge cost and manufacturability, aPriori allows Arrival to confidently generate manufacturing cost models as soon as the CAD-based design is ready.”

When a new part is sourced, Arrival uses aPriori simulations to pinpoint the best country, most cost-effective machine, and ultimately, a target price. These manufacturing cost models offer guidance for overall sourcing strategy while also providing a firm data-point for anchoring discussions with new suppliers.

Looking Ahead to the Future of Digital Factories

Arrival’s early cost engineering priorities with aPriori have focused on supplied parts. Over time, they will expand to internally manufactured parts as well. Currently, Arrival uses aPriori manufacturing process models to support fact-based negotiations with suppliers. 

In the future, Arrival plans to expand cooperation with trusted suppliers, refining aPriori process models to the point where quotes can be predicted with near certainty. Looking forward, aPriori will enable Arrival to benefit from manufacturing simulation capabilities while maintaining a strong cross-functional team leveraging aPriori’s manufacturing expertise. 

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