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ON-DEMAND ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING On-demand Additive Manufacturing to overcome inventory challenges

May 11, 2022

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) go through many challenges related to supply chain management. High investment to house spare and replacement parts, maintaining a safe physical inventory, and cost of inventory management programmes are some of the prominent challenges they face. These complexities have created a necessity to supplement the conventional methods of production with emerging technologies like Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D Printing.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a computer-controlled production method that creates three-dimensional parts by depositing the material layer by layer to produce the parts and meet any on-demand volume with a much lower latency. However, this method is best suitable to produce small batches of parts. The automotive industry is a perfect example, as it needs a host of vehicle parts that are produced in higher volumes and need to be stored at multiple locations to meet consumer demands and quickly serve the requirements. They follow the same conventional methods of manufacturing and storing the product components on warehouse shelves that may get occupied for any uncertain period of time, as there is no proven method to project and predict the requirement of the spare parts. Sometimes OEMs consider it as a dead inventory and find small distributors to sell the soon-to-be-obsolete parts with a much lower price, resulting in financial loss for the part manufacturing companies.

AM can truly transform this method to create parts and meet the consumer demand. OEMs need to change their production methods to apply AM as a tool to manage product storage needs. One thing that needs to be considered during the application of AM is a supplier that has on-premises manufacturing facility, certified process and qualified engineers. A highly organised approach definitely can help OEMs get quality parts for on-demand orders. Overstocking parts not only increases the investment but also a large warehouse space, and maintaining physical inventory is very much challenging and costly.

Advantages of Additive Manufacturing

  • Production decentralisation

    AM is a quiet portable technology that helps companies to be able to get production to local markets quickly. Companies find better solutions to manufacture components locally instead of relying on imports. It reduces the cost of the product, and a contentious supply of parts remains unaffected during any geopolitical uncertainties.

  • Easy product customisation

    Since 3D Printing is independent of any physical moulds, manufacturers get enough flexibility to customise the parts and easily meet the unique needs & improve the consumer experience. With one AM partner, designing, manufacturing, and delivery can be merged into a single supply chain function, reducing the manufacturing and inventory management cost.

  • Simple design and quick time-to-market

    3D Printing technology can produce a part with minimum joints, making the manufacturing process easy and increasing the part durability. Simplified designs improve lead times and shorten time-to-market, thereby affecting the supply chain.

  • Eco-friendly production

    3D Printing is an environment-friendly and cost-effective manufacturing process. It produces almost no waste with a lower carbon footprint. It can better regulate overproduction and surplus inventory with its just-in-time manufacturing capability.

  • Inventory and logistics minimisation

    With on demand manufacturing, the need to move physical products across geographies can reduce & significantly affect warehousing and logistics, benefiting the customers to get the finished part at a lower price.

    AM is a comparatively new technology and every day new improvements can be seen. However, currently, there are limitations to AM being the ultimate solution for OEM challenges. OEMs need many small parts and often moving parts that streamline repair and replacement processes, and sometimes it is difficult to produce these parts with AM. AM may not be employed to produce some aesthetic components. The selection of raw material for AM is limited, and it must be verified and validated to meet industry and regulatory standards before being used in real production.

Conclusion

Both manufacturing processes and consumer demands continue to evolve and to better manage this situation, OEMs are putting all their efforts to apply AM in their production processes. AM and 3D Printing can transform on-demand production drastically. However, there will always be a need for physical inventory, but AM, and 3D Printing can reduce this need and the management cost.

Courtesy: Objectify Technologies

Image Gallery

  • Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing can manage inventories efficiently along with reducing maintenance costs

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