aPriori Rolls BI Capabilities Into its Product Costing Tool

Continuing its push to make cost a key variable of product design, aPriori released a new business intelligence capability intended to bring self-service analytics and enhanced visibility of product cost data to a wider range of stakeholders.

The new Cost Insight extends the aPriori product cost management suite with enterprise-class business intelligence capabilities. The idea is to allow engineers, designers, and manufacturing executives to generate dashboards, ad hoc reports, and production reports that will maximize visibility into the performance of cost management initiatives and drive more informed decision making, notes Julie Driscoll, aPriori’s vice president of product management and strategic marketing.

The Cost Insight module, the company’s first Web-based offering, builds on the core suite’s functionality by opening up cost data in a much broader way, Driscoll says. “We created a thin client, browser-based app so anyone in the organization can see the data,” she explains. “That’s important because we had engineers generating costs to evaluate design alternatives, sourcing folks using it to support supplier negotiations, and managers and project leads wanting to get access to historical cost data — and it wasn’t easy to get into the system.”

Cost Insight includes a robust set of business intelligence tools, including those for ad hoc reporting, dashboard creation, and production report authoring. Image Courtesy of aPriori

Cost Insight includes a robust set of business intelligence tools, including those for ad hoc reporting, dashboard creation, and production report authoring. Image Courtesy of aPriori

With the core aPriori system, the project lead responsible for a particular product would lean on engineers or supply chain managers, for example, to generate reports so they could understand where a particular product or design alternative landed in terms of cost targets. In comparison, Cost Insight lets that same manager easily tap into real-time data to create on-the-fly reports that will help guide the team rather than having the team publish and present data back to the manager, Driscoll says.

“Now a manager can dive into what areas are over target and proactively have conversations with their team to drive potential changes to reduce the cost of that product,” she says. “Before, it would have been more of a manual process.”

Increased visibility to product cost data and how it trends over time is another key benefit of the Cost Insight module. With the core aPriori platform, an engineer might be able to see that a piston was forecast to cost $15 or that a complete engine design would come in at about $200, but it was difficult to trend that engine cost data over time, Driscoll says. “This allows users to capture a time series of trends related to product costs so that as the product matures through its lifecycle and new economic data is available, you can see how those changes and trends impact product cost,” she explains.  

To deliver self-service BI capabilities, Cost Insight is stocked with a number of capabilities, including:

  • A reporting data mart with automated/scheduled export of data from the core aPriori product cost management platform;
  • A full set of export, transform, and load (ETL) data integration capabilities used to connect aPriori to other enterprise systems and applications like ERP or PLM;
  • A suite of BI tools, including ad hoc reporting, dashboard creation, and production report authoring capabilities;
  • Out-of-the-box reports and dashboards for key cost management processes such as outlier analysis and cost tracking.

This video provides some insight into how to leverage the science of product cost management as a best practice.

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