Today, additive manufacturing (AM) is used across sectors—from space to healthcare to toys. While there are several benefits driven by this technology, including mass customization, design freedom, and manufacturing-on-demand, organizations are still struggling to adopt additive manufacturing successfully.
To unlock the value of additive manufacturing, we must address four key questions. First, how do organizations create business value through AM? Second, what are the generic advantages of this technology? Third, what are the best business models that could be adopted by enterprises? Finally, does the organization have a transformation plan? Answering these questions will help organizations realize the optimal potential of this technology.
Be aware of the basic elements that create business value
The complexity of the product, the size of the object, and the advantages of scale in manufacturing are some factors that determine business value. AM offers the technology that makes it both possible and cost-effective to produce complex shapes. The more complex the product, the more suitable additive manufacturing is as opposed to conventional manufacturing techniques. The next factor is the batch size. In general, AM is less suitable for large series of production, unlike conventional manufacturing economics, which dictates that the larger the series, the lower the cost per unit. With additive manufacturing, each unit comes with the same cost. So, if the target is the production of a smaller series, AM will turn out to be more cost-effective than conventional technologies. A shorter run of a product can be facilitated while facing fewer risks, for example, when customization is a key consideration. Finally, additive manufacturing in the current situation is particularly suitable for producing smaller parts or products, which means businesses still have to lean on conventional technologies for manufacturing larger parts.
Be thorough with generic advantages
It is imperative to understand the multiple advantages this technology brings to the businesses. Not only does AM help in reducing the time-to-market for new parts and products, but it also boosts the speed of product innovation. AM also plays a crucial role in easier asset maintenance with spare parts and specialized tooling available on demand. Assembly time and tooling costs will come down, too, if a product or a part can be printed at one go, without needing sub-assembly.
AM also optimizes the design with significantly low error rates and minimum material waste to improve the product lifecycle resulting in opening up of new verticals and markets with specific needs. Most importantly, it helps to listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ while developing a new product.
Know about existing business models and emerging new services
Co-creation platforms enable the possibility of co-creating with customers. Extreme customization and lifecycle management are the thriving models. Designing material and printing techniques, printer operations, and post-processing are some of the services that have emerged. Further developments in multi-material print capabilities, the size of the printable surface, and the increased speed of hardware will enable the production of large, error-free series at lower costs.
Develop a transformation roadmap
Organizations may face challenges in introducing this technology to decision makers, developing a business case, and properly estimating the return on investment. Issues like Intellectual Property (IP) considerations and product liability may also arise. However, when you know where you intend to apply AM and its potential business impact, you must consolidate, build and prioritize a two to five year transformational roadmap. This roadmap provides you with the strategic business design required to transform your business and operations to facilitate the successful and sustainable integration of AM. Ensure that the map includes facts such as partner recommendations, required capabilities, and organizational design. The true value of this technology is unlocked when businesses are secure enough to take risks and make bold moves.