The Additive Manufacturing Development Roadmap
Current applications for additive manufacturing are burdened by a variety of issues, including patent limitations, production speed and quality concerns. However, market innovations and dynamics are going to expand the scope of applications while reducing the issues (see Figure 2).
The timeline in Figure 2 shows the changes, developments and growth that we foresee with the evolution of additive manufacturing. Over a 10-year period you can observe the development of a better ecosystem with fewer patent limitations and greater availability of resources through new market models. Supply chains will focus on design and IP security; while manufacturing will follow the customer and logistics will be measured on velocity and time-to-delivery.
The Road to Coexistence
In order to operate with a dual supply chain strategy by including additive manufacturing, organizations need to assess their strengths and goals:
- How mature is your traditional supply chain? Where are you in the maturity curve with additive manufacturing?
- What products are most suited to it? Under what delivery options? For which customer segments?
- What processes of additive manufacturing will provide you competitive advantage (design, prototyping, manufacture)?
- Who is or should be managing the process of creating the additive manufacturing supply chain and aligning it with your traditional supply chain?
Companies which are already using additive manufacturing or experimenting with it should ask the following questions:
- What challenges or issues have you encountered as you’ve ramped up with additive manufacturing? Are they technical, financial, strategic?
- Is additive manufacturing giving you the strategic differentiation from your competition that you predicted?
- What are the strengths you’re experiencing? Where are you falling short of?
As part of the assessment of your current supply chain’s maturity level, you will need to consider IT integration, flexible ERP models, advanced PLM solutions for better cost, inventory and demand planning across the dual supply chain.
An external consultant with expertise in industry trends, suppliers, strategy and technology integration can help you assess the stage you are in, and propose a roadmap to meet your strategic goals. This can help you get there quickly with minimum process disruption and a faster return on investment.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
As your business gets more serious about adopting additive manufacturing, you have to keep in mind that innovation and partnerships underline any investments or utilization of technology if it has to be successful. Goals should be measured on quantitative benefits and if the associated numbers aren’t met, then the strategy and implementation should be reconsidered.
Hence, in the beginning, choose a project that can be measured on basic success metrics, such as customer reach, material orders and rate of production innovation. Upon experiencing success, extend your investments across new opportunities by analyzing them on time-bound returns on revenue, market share and profits.
To avoid the potential for conflicts between the two supply chains, you’ll need to pay attention to where the same components and assets might be used and draw a line to distinguish between them.
Now we will see how traditional and additive manufacturing supply chains can work together.