Recently, we brought together Daniel Burckhardt (Head of Product) and Brian Crotty (Marketing Director and Public Relations) to discuss the reasoning and strategies that the 3YOURMIND team used to develop the product release of their Digital Inventory.
Product Strategies, Customer Needs
3YOURMIND works closely with their customers to both define and prioritize product development. Working with leading companies gives them a sneak peak into upcoming use cases that can benefit the entire additive manufacturing industry. It’s a strategy that has consistently born fruit over the past five years. While the company began by supporting service bureaus to process orders more quickly, now it manages additive manufacturing as a key part of a production portfolio. Perhaps even more importantly, they are setting the stage for agile manufacturing streams.
In this discussion, Daniel Burckhardt describes the initial business cases that the digital inventory will solve, the main value benefits that companies can win by centralizing AM knowledge, and the next stages of development which can be expected from the digital inventory.
In Conversation: The Digital Inventory
Digital Inventory Product Conversation: Video Transcript
What is the Goal of the Digital Inventory?
Brian Crotty: 3YOURMIND just released the digital inventory. What is it about what's going on in the AM world that made this product the next step to focus our development on?
Daniel Burckhardt: What we see is that our customers have a huge need for sharing knowledge within their company; specifically, knowledge on what parts can be 3D printed.
And the digital inventory addresses exactly this problem. The digital inventory saves successfully produced parts and shares this knowledge with other departments.
How Does the Digital Inventory Support Repeatability?
Brian Crotty: The digital inventory is a collection of parts that went through a process of experts working on them, fo going through production, coordination with the production floor, and then all of this information now stored together.
So I guess what you're trying to build with the digital inventory is repeatability.
Daniel Burckhardt: Exactly. The company knows what parts we've successfully produced. And so it makes [those parts] accessible to other people in the company. Maybe engineers that don't know that these parts even existed, for example.
We have tools, we have spare parts that we could easily produce with additive manufacturing, and we have already had this experience of producing them. So we're just more confident about printing them now.
Brian Crotty: It makes a lot of sense. It's a little bit why we started with the AM Part Identifier, also.
This is about everybody in the organization being able to add information without having to be an AM expert and still making AM possible. So this sounds similar: "I can make AM parts without being an expert".
What are the First Big Use Cases for the Digital Inventory?
Brian Crotty: What do you think are going to be the first big use cases that we see for the digital inventory, or what are you working on already with customers?
Daniel Burckhardt: Our customers see a big need for producing spare parts and tooling. I would say these are the biggest two applications that we see that could be used in this digital inventory.
Brian Crotty: Those are great because they're are a big percentage of what happens in production just behind the scenes, right? Those aren't the ones that are visible, but they make up a big portion of the costs of keeping inventories on hand and figuring out how to get places fast; you're getting rid of logistic chains.
What are the next Development Steps for the Digital Inventory Product?
Brian Crotty: What other steps do you need to be thinking about in the context of a larger production environment?
Daniel Burckhardt: The next step we want to take with this digital inventory is to be able to connect external ERP systems. What we see in the market right now is that there's a decision making process of "Do I have parts in stock?" And "Can I produce them with conventional manufacturing?" Or actually, "Can I produce them with additive manufacturing?"
And the digital inventory is a big chance of being able to say, "I have this digital library of information of parts with a price tag and with the delivery time, and I can automatically make a decision: should I produce this with AM because it's more feasible, it's cheaper, it's faster? Or do I have it in stock? Or actually is conventional manufacturing the better choice at this point?" And that's something we can automate, and that's great for us.
What makes the Digital Inventory a Key Step into Distributed Manufacturing?
Brian Crotty: And that feels really important because then we're really bringing additive manufacturing as a true alternative to conventional manufacturing into the workflows that are already in the organization. That's what it feels like often... that AM exists next to conventional production, and not in production.
Daniel Burckhardt: I totally agree, and the great part about this is it's digital, right? You don't have to be at one specific location. The digital inventory is a great transition to this idea of distributed manufacturing, having printers not just in one country but several locations, several continents to then produce the parts where they are actually needed.