Computer-Aided Parts Estimation

Adam Cunningham, Robert Smart


In 1991, Ford Motor Company began deployment of CAPE (computer-aided parts estimating system), a highly advanced knowledge-based system designed to generate, evaluate, and cost automotive part manufacturing plans. cape is engineered on an innovative, extensible, declarative process-planning and estimating knowledge representation language, which underpins the cape kernel architecture. Many manufacturing processes have been modeled to date, but eventually every significant process in motor vehicle construction will be included. Significant cost reductions are among the many benefits CAPE brings to Ford. CAPE is a highly significant system for Ford of Europe in terms of the business needs it satisfies and the corporate acceptance of AI applications: First, CAPE represents a major investment, with significant person-years of effort spent on predeployment development alone. Second, CAPE is the first large-scale production expert system to be deployed within Ford of Europe. Third, cost estimating is a critical business function. With a total annual materials budget of several billion dollars, cost control is at the heart of Ford's business. Fourth, reducing the lead time for new model programs provides a key competitive advantage. CAPE reduces estimating response time by 50 percent. Fifth, this system is enormously ambitious. The final system will capture the combined knowledge of estimating experts in all areas of automotive manufacture.

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