Costimator generates shop costs for machining and assembly times. The cost-per-operation chart generated by the software shows that operation 50, manual assembly, is the most expensive for the job being estimated.
Costimator generates shop costs for machining and assembly times. The cost-per-operation chart generated by the software shows that operation 50, manual assembly, is the most expensive for the job being estimated.
 
The Part Information on the left details each step in a production sequence. The analysis charts show that although flame cutting (10) is the most time consuming, noncell work (22) is the most expensive.
The Part Information on the left details each step in a production sequence. The analysis charts show that although flame cutting (10) is the most time consuming, noncell work (22) is the most expensive.

Costimator software from MTI Systems, Springfield Mass. (www.costimator.com), lets manufacturing engineers quote the most-efficient and least-expensive process in about an hour. "Requests for quotes for complex, high-tolerance parts machined from titanium and other exotic metals are routinely processed in three days," says Chris Lobdell, president of Northeast Manufacturing, Stoneham, Mass. "The software eliminates underbids and helps us keep tabs on manufacturing costs."

Northeast customers also benefit from the software. "When quoting a part for NASA, I was able to suggest using a larger end mill, which improved cutting efficiency and shortened cycle time," explains Charles Masterson, an estimator with Northeast. "That and a few setup changes halved the $50,000 target manufacturing cost. Northeast won the bid."

Prior to the computerized system, about 40% of Northeast's quoted jobs turned out to be less profitable than first estimated. In contrast, the software consistently pegs manufacturing costs within about 5%, says Lobdell. Cycle times generated in Costimator feed into other management software to improve shop-floor scheduling, while process plans, routings, and other reports support sales and service. "Now when customers seek a "best and final" bid after initial quote, estimators can refer to the detailed cost estimates and decline with confidence," says Lobdell.

-- Paul Dvorak