Every supply chain has one or the other weak link. It might lead to quality-control issues or delays in the delivery of products. With the help of additive manufacturing companies can forge some alternatives to improve product lines and production approaches. They can break existing performance tradeoff by reducing the capital required to achieve economies of scale and increase flexibility. Changing the capital-versus-scale relationship can improve the production process and impact how companies configure the supply chain. Additive manufacturing can redesign the supply chain by reducing material waste, increasing production flexibility, and decentralizing production. Companies aiming to improve their existing supply chain performance by making incremental changes must develop a longer-term strategic plan for AM deployment.
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Role of Additive Manufacturing in the Supply Chain
Minimize material inputs
In traditional processes, the level of material input required for production is dependent on the product’s design complexity. With additive manufacturing technology, manufacturers can produce higher-performing designs that are not possible through traditional manufacturing techniques. Additive manufacturing minimizes design complexity and material need, thereby facilitating companies to work towards leaner manufacturing and improve design quality.
In addition, additive manufacturing-based designs can integrate complex geometries into traditional product designs, significantly reducing both weight and the amount of material required to create a specific product or part.
Alter the production process
The use of additive manufacturing allows manufacturers to simplify their production processes and reduce the complexity of supply chains by cutting down the number of assembly steps that a product undergoes to reach its final form. The technology provides designers the ability to redesign parts to reap the benefits of part and sub-assembly consolidation. This can lead to major supply chain transformation, involving a reduction in labor inputs, a number of tooling and machining centers, and work in process inventory.
Employing additive manufacturing can further alter the production process by reducing the amount of tooling required to manufacture parts.
Provide a contingency plan
Manufacturing companies don’t need to choose between additive manufacturing and conventional manufacturing techniques. The two can coexist, providing manufacturers with a contingency means of production if the primary means of production is incapacitated. The use of additive manufacturing can reduce supply chain risk and support uninterrupted deliveries to customers. It can be used in the backup capacity.
Moreover, additive manufacturing production systems are flexible and configurable, allowing companies to produce different parts without incurring additional costs. But manufacturers should consider running a trial of AM-produced trial products to ensure that their functionality matches to those of conventionally produced parts.
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Improve supply chain process flexibility
Supply chains need to be flexible enough to react to changing requirements. The use of additive manufacturing can impact the supply chain flexibility in two primary ways. First, it can reduce the time and resources required to design and develop a new product. The compression in product development lead time can help companies to react rapidly to changing market preferences. Second, it can reduce the time and resources required to switch product designs. This can shorten lead times and enables companies to personalize end products on a mass scale on customer demand.