3-D printing is an important, and promising technology, in the definition of digital supply chain strategies. Initially over-hyped, but a decade later, the fit in a digital supply chain is clearer. The obstacles--lack of 3-D images, the shift from subtractive to additive manufacturing and the flexibility of machines--are better understood. In this presentation, Tali shares insights.
Complex global supply chains leave manufacturers and their customers vulnerable to external risks
Between a global pandemic, a ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal and global trade issues, this point has been driven home over the past year as many businesses faced massive disruptions in supply chains around the world.
Last year the Institute for Supply Management conducted a series of surveys on how the pandemic was affecting global supply chains.
Ninety-seven percent of supply chain executives reported that their organizations had been or would be impacted by COVID-19, with almost half reporting they didn’t have a plan in place to deal with such a disruption.
So what can manufacturers do to protect and insulate themselves from these and other threats going forward?
The issue most manufacturers face today is that it’s often a choice between supply chain efficiency or supply chain resiliency.
Traditional resiliency tactics like Inventory and capacity buffers, Multisourcing and nearshoring often have significant costs or other barriers associated with them.
The issue with these tactics is that many of them have a significant cost or other challenges associated with them.
But what if there was another way for manufacturers to reduce their risk by improving the flexibility and resiliency of their supply chains?
While traditionally used for prototyping, more manufacturers are beginning to integrate additive manufacturing into their workflows to produce end-use parts, adding flexibility, resiliency and responsiveness.
In a recent survey, 93% of the manufacturing executives surveyed said they expect to grow their use of 3D printing for production parts in the coming years.
3D printing can help increase supply chain resiliency in a number of ways whether manufacturers use it as the default form of production or as a “backup generator” for supply chain disruptions
Solve supply chain vulnerabilities by 3d printing on-demand the necessary parts
Avoid excessive inventory and warehousing costs
It can also help drive environmental gains and reduce carbon footprint
However, to truly capture the value of additive manufacturing and the flexibility it can provide for supply chains, there are some things that need to change
It is not a true apples to apples comparison with traditional manufacturing methods.
Integrating 3D printing into your supply chain doesn’t mean just outfitting your overseas manufacturing facility with a fleet of 3D printers.
Instead to obtain the true benefits of supply chain resiliency with 3D printing, manufacturers need to use additive manufacturing in a distributed manufacturing model rather than a centralized manufacturing model.
This means putting 3D printer closer to the site of consumption where these end use parts will be used.
A digital network of decentralized production sites, spread across locations and connected by digital technology opens the door to faster delivery, sustainability, customization and support for regional markets.
Distributed manufacturing facilities can also use a centralized virtual storage place for 3D designs, send data between facilities and produce a part when the customer needs it, bypassing the need to maintain a physical inventory, saving on warehousing costs.
Focus on economies of scope instead of economies of scale
Total cost of ownership is a crucial area of analysis in determining whether a part should be 3D printed.
However, most analyses do not consider many hidden costs that 3D Printing can eliminate or significantly reduce.
The central cost metric that manufacturers focus on today is cost-per-part
The reality is 3D printing will always struggle to compete with traditional manufacturing techniques in a 1:1 comparison of cost-per-part.
But it’s simply not an apples-to-apples comparison. Manufacturers often overlook hidden costs such as warehousing, material waste, transportation and obsolescence in the case of traditional manufacturing.
To determine which parts should be 3D printed, a costing calculation is a necessary function, yet most procurement teams only evaluate “per piece” cost as the primary factor in sourcing decisions.
Through our research and conversations with customers, we have found that warehousing, transportation, and risk of obsolescence can, at times, even amount to 100% of the baseline costs.
To demonstrate the true value of 3D printing, we need to see a mindset change where manufacturers take a step back and look at the big picture
To take full advantage of the complex designs that additive manufacturing can print, it’s not just about producing the same parts you already produce, its about optimizing those parts for the technology.
This could mean reducing cost or weight by using less material or combining multiple parts into one part
The way that we do this is through design for additive, otherwise known as DfAM.
DfAM results in:
design freedom and flexibility
the ability to consolidate parts
lighter weight, complexity, accelerated development cycle, immediate feedback on design,
efficient use of materials
Two good real-world examples of how DfAM enabled more efficient part design
BMW i8 Roadster bracket is 44% lighter than the roof bracket conventionally manufactured for the previous model
GE fuel nozzle had 20 different pieces. Now, just one part, the nozzle is 25% lighter and 5 times more durable which equals a total savings of $3M per aircraft, per year
3D/additive manufacturing solutions are not seeking to replace traditional manufacturing techniques. Instead, the goal is to have manufacturers adopt a hybrid approach, using a combination of traditional and additive techniques to make them more efficient and effective.
To achieve this, additive manufacturing technology needs to be easy to integrate with manufacturing execution systems (MES) and computer-aided design (CAD) software, while also providing the same level of service as traditional techniques.
For AM to break through to serial production, processes need a way to be easily integrated at every level, informing and updating each other to streamline and ultimately reduce the cost of production.
Additive workflows and MES software that can integrate successfully with other tools, like ERP and business intelligence software, allows a for a more granular level of visibility, synchronization across and control over the entire AM process.