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5 Lessons for AM, part 3/3: 5 Guidelines for Resilient Supply Chains

Blog Brian Crotty | May 7, 2020 | 4 min read

3D printing was able to support the covid response effort for critical, stop-gap production. But after less than one month, conventional manufacturing was already producing almost all of those parts, with the exception of parts that were generally better suited for AM. That illustrates that 3D printing has a critical, but limited role in the supply chain. Those guidelines can be taken to move 3D Printing from an innovation budget into a secure procurement plan as part of a resilient supply chain.

That lesson continues when one understands that the Covid Response platform and 3D printing are really an ecosystem of multiple actors. The single most important guideline for building up agile production moving forward is establishing strong infrastructures between each step in the production chain and additive manufacturing

This should not come as a surprise because we see this type of integrated systems in traditional manufacturing, but because 3D printing spent so many years as a prototyping technology, it has developed as a parallel technology. The next step will be deeper integration into enterprise supply chains using digital, AM qualified inventories.

This article will summarize the lessons from our previous two articles on the interrelation of 3D printing and conventional manufacturing and using a centralized team to qualify inventories and integrate them into resilient supply chains.

Guidelines for 3D Printing to Agile Supply Chains in a post-COVID-19 world.

Screening existing inventories to find where AM offers a sustainable answer

The first necessary step is to perform industry-based value stream mapping to identify where Additive Manufacturing has the best fit. Defining the models for product screening and starting to pre-qualify best use-cases. Here, it will be key to take into account not only the technical drivers but also economical, supply chain and environment sustainability parameters. Starting to thoroughly evaluate use-cases will allow companies to build educated business plans for printing technologies investment.

Rapid qualification and certification workflows for rapid manufacturing

If we want to be able to benefit from one of the most promising features of AM - on demand production - we also need to build more reactive qualification processes for designs and finished parts. In that matter, data standardization will be key and companies will need to build reactive qualification and certification workflows.

Building centralized, data-driven, cross-functional teams

The competency center model lets AM experts validate 3D printed parts to be provided to end users. Cross-functional teams need to cooperate together in the same standardized digital environment to roll-out their industrialization plan.

Building instant ordering workflows and automated manufacturing

Defining the production requirements and standardized workflows to automate the operations in distributed factories. It is especially important that most of the preparation work can be done remotely so the operator can work individually without errors. It is also important that the orders arriving from end users who aren’t familiar with 3D printing are still “one-click” away from ordering parts.

Integrating 3D Printing into Reactive Supply Chains

Digital files and 3D printing can quickly produce parts as an agile supply chain, but without rapid certification and data organization, supply chains will still be limited. Once those steps are complete, the procurement should be directly linked with additional parts of the assembly and with methods to move from stop-gap 3D printing into full conventional manufacturing streams. When that process is established, then you have a redundant supply chain for the cost of storing digital files.

5 Guidelines for AM Infographics

Guidelines for 3D Printing to Agile Supply Chains in a post-Covid-19 world infographics
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Following Guidelines for 3D Printing in Agile Supply Chains

3D Printing needs to move from innovation and prototyping into stable, ongoing production to move into its next stage of growth. These guidelines can act as a checklist for the processes enterprise companies will need to establish in order to have this level of supply chain efficiency and be prepared for the next time they need to respond to demand shifts. The changes are a combination of agile software, integrated systems and mindset shift. But when these components are put into place, it will put 3D printing into its rightful place in the supply chain.

Previous Covid-19 Lessons for the 3D Printing Industry

Part 1: Can COVID kill 3D Printing? - Lessons #1 and #2

Part 2: Starting with Qualified Inventories - Lessons #3 to #5

5-lessons-for-am-part-1 5-lessons-for-am-part-2

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