The US Department of Defense (DoD) just published the DoD Additive Manufacturing Strategy report in January 2021 highlighting its significant commitment to modernize national defense systems. The French Army recently partnered with a prominent 3D printing distributor in France to deploy one of the largest 3D printing military farms in Europe focused on spare part production. The list of governments, military branches and civil protection agencies adopting additive manufacturing continues to grow at an exponential rate.
Distributed Manufacturing is the decentralization of resources and production capabilities across multiple facilities.
Ultimately, the intention is to increase on-demand, localized manufacturing that is less dependent on a singular production facility. This has become common practice for many industrial manufacturers that operate globally, focused on enhancing customer relationships or eliminating costs associated with traditional shipping and warehousing logistics.
Possible through strengthened communications, data aggregation and agile production with additive manufacturing, it’s no surprise that the military is adopting a similar methodology.
However, instead of improving customer service, international military branches are hyper-focused on mission success with minimal complications.
Adopting new technologies, processes and workflows is a challenging endeavor for any major organization. When it comes to the military, it’s important to understand that efficiency is key and missteps may have much more dreadful impacts compared to civilian or commercial industries.
Addressing the following challenges with this in mind, enables all stakeholders to properly assess and manage expectations throughout :
- Modernize national defense systems
- Increase readiness level
- Enhance warfighter innovation and capability
Key Strategy #1 - Develop a Digital Inventory
There is no distributed manufacturing model success without a proper digital inventory management system and workflow.
This immediately addresses the readiness criteria suggested by the US DoD and adopted by many other government entities. On-demand production of spare parts is a major consideration for maritime operations, FOBs and strategically located facilities across the globe. By aggregating invaluable data, part analysis, material standard information, and AM equipment capabilities, the military is able to access a centralized digital library of assets from anywhere in the world and manufacture these parts locally.
This is a necessary advantage for those engaged in critical and time-sensitive applications. Without this capability, the military must rely on antiquated supply chain methods that are too expensive, wasteful and inefficient.
Developing a digital inventory will provide the following benefits to military and commercial operations :
- Eliminate logistical nightmares
- Improve organizational efficiency
- Enable localized manufacturing
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Key Strategy #2 - Reimagine the Roadmap
Embracing the next generation of industrialization with AM takes alignment from all stakeholders involved.
Oftentimes, the military is accountable to its citizens and partners so they are unable to make decisions in a vacuum. Additionally, the supplier network plays a pivotal role in the success or failure of technology adoption. Although many domestic and foreign military operations look to become more self reliant, they cannot completely cut off select stakeholders.
Due to this, it’s necessary to align on the value of AM and the best way to do so is by developing a strong business case combined with a realistic return on investment.
Most recently, the Australian Army announced a $1.5 million investment into metal 3D printing technology to enable on-demand manufacturing of unique parts. The purpose is to test whether or not this technology is reliable enough in the field and although this initial investment is comparatively small, the opportunity is not. This is a prime example of building the business case internally and modernizing the defense system.
Reimagining the roadmap will positively impact :
- Relationships and communications amongst stakeholders
- Idea generation
- Cost reduction and efficiency improvements
Key Strategy #3 - Scaling and Security
The final and arguably most important strategy that the military will focus on is the ability to safely scale operations.
Government defense organizations across the planet rely on transmitting confidential data and will never compromise on this requirement. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a manufacturing execution system (MES) that is equipped to trace parts, track production status and secure file details.
In addition, the military must meet certain QA guidelines and having an MES system capable of integrating that information will enable a smooth, digital production workflow.
For example, the US Air Force and GE Additive recently identified several spare parts, most notably a sump cover for the F110 engine used on the F-15 and F-16 jet fighters, that can be additively manufactured. The requirements were extensive and of course, it needed to be cost effective.
Now, the US Air Force can retain this proprietary information and safely scale it across the globe to enhance warfighter innovation and capability.
Implementing a secure MES system will provide :
- Seamless tracking and real-time production status
- Protection of confidential data
- A reliable path to decentralize manufacturing
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The mission to build a distributed manufacturing model for military, government defense and civil protection agencies is already underway. The current challenge is not access to materials or technology but the lack of expertise needed to compile the data and develop a workflow that is custom and robust. Simply put, brawn without the brains.
This is why 3YOURMIND has become such an attractive solution for many in the defense sector. With extensive experience in production management, digital workflow solutions and custom software development, 3YOURMIND is uniquely positioned to become a major contributor to the success of distributed manufacturing in the military.