How 3D Printing Fits into Your Supply Chain
3D Printing Implementation
The importance of Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing in a supply chain cannot be underestimated. Tremendous progress has been made in a relatively short amount of time.
These new opportunities with 3D printing present new challenges and questions. Final production parts like jet engine fuel nozzles, custom hearing aids and impellers can now be printed in a variety of materials spanning polymers to metals. But just because they can be produced via 3D printing, should they be?
Companies need to understand where and how to adopt Additive Manufacturing solutions to best achieve increased business profits as well as make production more efficient and productive.
The mindset for companies must be to consider Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing as supply chain solutions and not just manufacturing solutions. They need to look at how they currently run their supply chain and see how this can disrupt their existing businesses and do their best to approximate how this will yield the best results.
Initially, the supply chain should be examined from a qualitative standpoint. Courtesy of Senvol, below are the seven supply chain scenarios that tend to lend themselves well to AM. If a part falls into one or more of these scenarios, it may be cost-effective to produce via AM and is a candidate for further evaluation. If a part does not fall into any of these scenarios, the part almost certainly will not be cost-effective for AM, given the current state of AM technology.
The Expensive to Manufacture Scenario – Do you have parts that are high cost because they have complex geometries, high fixed costs like tooling or are produced in low volumes? AM may be more cost effective.
Long Lead Times – Does it take too ling to obtain certain parts? As your downtime costs extremely high? Do you want to increases speed-to-market? Through AM, you can get parts more quickly.
High Inventory Costs – Do you overstock or understock? Do you struggle with long-tail or obsolete parts? AM can allow for on-demand production, thus reducing the need for inventory.
Sole-Sourced from Suppliers – Are any of your critical parts sole-sourced? This poses a supply chain risk. By qualifying a part for AM, you will no longer be completely reliant on your current supplier.
Remote Locations – Do you operate in remote locations where it is difficult, time consuming, or expensive to ship parts to? AM may enable you to manufacture certain parts on-site.
High Import/ Export Costs – Do you pay substantial import/export costs on parts simply because of the location of your business and your supplier? On-sire production via AM can eliminate these costs.
Improved Functionality– AM can enable a part to be redesigned such that its performance is improved beyond what was previously possible.
Overall, when considering whether to implement Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing, there is no substitute for conducting a cost-benefit analysis that evaluates the entire supply chain and product life cycle.
Doing so may not only lead to substantial cost-savings today, but will also enable your firm to understand which AM metrics to track in the future. AM technology is advancing quickly, and so having a thorough understanding of when to implement the technology will enable your firm to gain a competitive advantage.