News | Sept. 14, 2010

ManTech Leads DMS&T Pursuit of Better Cost Modeling Method

By Dr. John Russell Materials and Manufacturing;

The Office of the Secretary of Defense's Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology program, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory's Manufacturing Technology Division, managed the development of the Cost Modeling for Enterprise Transformation tool, which incorporates computer-aided design models and solid manufacturing data to provide timely, accurate, program-related cost estimates and thus addresses the acknowledged fallibility of current cost-projection mechanisms. Compared to prevailing methods--which involve inefficient, line-by-line modification as designs are revised and which employ models reliant on stored, potentially dated manufacturing information--COMET prepares cost estimates in a fraction of the time and, further, ensures these estimates are complete and correct (validated). Researchers expect the technology to improve US weapon systems affordability via reduced production costs and shorter development and implementation timelines. More specifically, once COMET undergoes full-capability deployment to guide design decisions, 10%-20% overall program cost reductions are feasible.

Initiated to address widespread cost modeling inaccuracy and, in turn, the great expense and substantial technology delays stemming from this problem, the ManTech-led COMET program set out to integrate cost modeling software with design and manufacturing operations in order to achieve real-time cost estimates. During COMET's Phase I effort, researchers investigated the automated extraction of critical design features and shop floor control systems to this end, with developments in key enabling technologies and standards (e.g., Adobe 3D [three-dimensional] Portable Document Format, Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data, Open Applications Group Integration Specification) opening the door to this reality. To date, COMET has demonstrated preliminary success both in extracting geometric design information and in incorporating manufacturing process plans, achievements that collectively ensure accurate and thorough cost estimates, minimize computational errors, and otherwise expedite the costing process. During Phase II of the project, the COMET team plans to expand data extraction capabilities, automate the transfer process, and demonstrate the full range of developed capabilities.

OSD's DMS&T program facilitates the maturation of cross-cutting defense manufacturing capabilities beyond the capacity of any single service to achieve.