With 3D printing for more efficiency in the supply chain

3D printing has long outgrown rapid prototyping and is revolutionizing supply chain management as well as numerous production processes. The latter is increasingly changing, as additive manufacturing processes eliminate the distinction between supply chain and production. The reason: 3D printing makes it possible to manufacture workpieces where they are needed at the moment they are needed.

This shortens the supply chains enormously. Instead of raw materials, workpieces and spare parts, only design and manufacturing data are transported. However, the impact of 3D printing on supply chains extends beyond the manufacture and sale of end products. Spare parts required later for maintenance or repairs can be quickly generated on site in the 3D printer.

To take advantage of the advantages of on-demand manufacturing and rapid prototyping, you can turn to 3D printing companies. Nowadays, however, it is also possible to bring the technology into your own house.

Insourcing instead of outsourcing

Outsourcing production tasks to suppliers around the world has economic advantages, but makes supply chain management a highly complex task. In order to be able to produce without interruption, requirements have to be planned, suppliers have to be commissioned at the right time and stocks have to be built up and controlled.

The latter applies even more to spare and wear parts. Because their future needs are difficult to predict, many companies usually have more parts in stock than are ever needed. In addition, such parts are often unused in the warehouse for years before they are finally used.

Here, 3D printing offers good opportunities to become significantly more profitable. In the ideal case, warehousing could even be dispensed with entirely, after all, additive manufacturing only enables parts to be produced when needed, on site and in batches.

The following savings can be achieved

Additive manufacturing enables companies to manufacture a large number of variants without major retooling and to deliver them just in time. Because production takes place on demand, storage costs are also saved.

There are also cost advantages in the supply chain:

1. Transport costs

According to studies, the on-demand production of parts on site can reduce the costs of producing and shipping parts from all over the world by up to 85 percent.

2. Storage costs

In the 3D printer, workpieces and spare parts can be produced at the required time and adapted to individual needs. This significantly reduces storage costs, because stocks of finished parts and spare parts can be noticeably reduced. Storage areas that were previously permanently occupied will be free again.

3. Labor costs

Insourcing 3D printing technology can be worthwhile. Trade media report on companies in which the in-house production of tools and machine parts in 3D printing has led to cost and time savings of up to 90 percent. The same applies to the production of spare parts. Such efficiency advantages make up for the high labor costs in Germany compared to manufacturing at foreign suppliers.

4. Material costs

A decisive advantage of 3D printing over conventional machining processes is that there is almost no material waste. The “printed” workpieces are manufactured by applying material in layers, instead of turning or milling from the solid.

Companies benefit from flexibility

The more complex the supply chains, the slower and more inflexible they become. The integration of 3D printing provides a remedy here. The supply chain can be shortened from several suppliers to one who then delivers the required parts directly. This increases transparency and speed in the supply chain, simplifies purchasing and enables you to react more quickly to changing requirements. Further advantages are:

1. Freedom of design

While the conventional production of complicated workpieces has reached its limits, 3D printing simplifies their production. The advantage of additive manufacturing lies in the geometric freedom. Unusual geometries no longer pose a challenge in terms of their implementation with conventional manufacturing processes.

2. Just-in-time inventory

Parts manufactured on demand save storage costs, as the required parts are only manufactured when required instead of in stock. This is especially true for parts with little rotation. Just-in-time stocks are basically superfluous. Additive manufacturing enables parts to be produced just-in-time on the nearest 3D printer. All you need to do is send the 3D design data.

3. Efficiency

Additive manufacturing processes shorten transport routes, reduce manufacturing times, increase availability and ensure efficiency in the supply chain. Anyone who does not have additive manufacturing by a service provider, but has the technology in-house and prints it themselves, also benefits from the elimination of time-consuming procurement processes.

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