Not everyone is familiar with the acronym, CAPP, but the notion of Computer-Aided Process Planning has been around for over twenty years. The focus has been to reduce the labor hours required to create manufacturing planning.

There have been numerous studies and projects to improve the methods for process planning, yet the actual adoption and use of most of these solutions has been very limited. The first approach has involved PLM software vendors creating tools closely-coupled with their proprietary CAD systems. While these are very useful to companies that design and manufacture all their parts in one system, the reality is that most supply chains are distributed and heterogeneous. Thus, most suppliers receive CAD data in many different formats, and they are left to their own devices to create the manufacturing planning for their production system.

The second approach to improve process planning has involved ERP/MES software vendors attempting to “boil the ocean” by creating an all-encompassing system that acts as the one-stop shop. It is based on the concept of a universal database in a large enterprise IT solution with common access for all participants. This approach has merit in a homogeneous enterprise, but it tends to be expensive, ignores the heterogeneous supply chain, and it is typically poor at interacting with the details of the CAD model or drawing.

The third approach has involved software vendors attempting to use artificial intelligence to automate the generation of the manufacturing planning documentation. While these “generative” process planning systems have been used on a very narrow set of parts, their lack of robust expandability makes the approach impractical for the majority of suppliers that make a variety of parts.

Even with all of these efforts, the majority of manufacturing and quality engineers still do not have a standard tool optimized to help quickly create manufacturing planning documentation.