The scope of Additive manufacturing (AM) has recently expanded from prototyping to tooling and production of end-user parts. AM has its influence across many industries including aerospace and defense, automotive consumer goods, industrial products and so on.
As a highly innovative production technology, additive manufacturing is gaining fast interest, due it the advantages it offers over more traditional production methods. This enables high flexibility in product design, manufacturing and downstream throughout the supply chain.
Using additive manufacturing technology to develop supply chain may give strong value proposition and competitive advantage to businesses. The two main advantages are functional integration of parts and a higher resource efficiency, for production.
AM’s impact on supply chain can be understood from below points;
- Help optimize weight ratios of goods, reducing the amount of raw material needed in the supply chain.
- Simplification of supply chains by reducing the number of assembly steps, to get the final product.
- Reduction of labour inputs, tooling,machining centers, and inventory of work-in-process.
- AM production systems are versatile and configurable, capable of producing several different parts without additional costs such as creation of equipment
- Improve the flexibility of the process and respond more quickly to demand.
- Redesign supply chain networks for distributed production networks.
- Reduce the cost of capital access to new markets.
Additive manufacturing can have a positive impact in building a new age collaborative innovation methodology, in which AM impacts supply chain to improve overall efficiency. From layout to logistic operations, it can influence the supply chain significantly. With AMs impact, all associated activities too can see improved performance.
AM in the supply chain of spare parts
AM may appear as a costly process, but there are significant advantages in terms of inventory reduction, shorter lead times and customer response times.
From a sustainability viewpoint, the resulting picture is less clear; it is obviously beneficial to minimize material waste during processing. On the other hand the product’s quality after it has been discarded is questionable, although reuse of working components may be feasible for conventionally manufactured products.
Additive manufacturing will fundamentally change the way supply chains operate worldwide. Below are shaping impact on conventional supply chains of the production of additives. The three cases can be summarized as follows:
- The flow of information would increase as material flows decrease
Additive manufacturing systems rely not on the operator’s skills, but on the designs. It limits worldwide product movement as only the design document is transferred to production locations instead of the material in digital format. The design is printed and the material is made available to the most appropriate printer.
- Local market-oriented supply chain
AM will help shorten the supply chains and reduce stock by closely following the market demands and reducing lead times.
- The faster supply chain: Less Logistics
As products are manufactured on the premises worldwide, the transport needs will thus decrease the lead times thereby improving the efficiency of the supply chain.
Additive manufacturing provides companies with the ability to reduce lead times and reduce uncertainty by simple processes. In addition, additive manufacturing may eliminate significant financial obstacles that have prevented other competitors from entering the market until recently. AM reduces supply chain costs and improves supply chain responsiveness.