When it comes to manufacturing, there is no bigger story than the impact of globalization. As the world flattens and interconnects more than ever before, the global market becomes a winner-takes-all affair. The global economy rewards manufacturers that quickly adopt best practices and crushes those who linger in the ways of the past. Three key manufacturing trends build upon globalization—infrastructure productivity, responsive supply chains and product life cycle efficiency—dictate success for manufacturers in the 21st century. Companies that adopt 3D printing in their manufacturing and embrace these trends will have an advantage over the competition.
According to the Harvard Business Review, higher infrastructure productivity is essential for tackling the world’s infrastructure problems. For example, streamlining the delivery process of production tools, parts and prototypes via improved transport infrastructure could save up to $400 billion a year. 3D printing brings improvement to transport productivity at minimal cost by providing a rapid digital link between remote design and local manufacturing. Logistical and infrastructure shortcomings can be overcome via in-house production in regional or local R&D facilities.
The automotive and aerospace industries demand high degrees of responsiveness and availability. With competition growing even fiercer in the global economy, greater efficiency is required through the entire life cycle of the product. Such efficiency can be improved both in initial as well as subsequent manufacturing runs to support products through end-of-life. Honda Access, a subsidiary of the Honda Group headquartered in Tokyo, manufactures accessories for cars and motorcycles worldwide. The company specializes in customizing accessories to local market preferences.
3D printers allow us to synchronize the development schedule with that of the vehicle itself and create the accessory parts simultaneously, improving both the quality and speed of the prototype process -Hiroshi Takemori, Senior Researcher
Streamlining Future Demand
The benefits of adopting 3D printing for end-of life goods may be even more substantial than the cost-savings from prototyping. Omer Krieger, General Manager of Stratasys Asia Pacific and Japan, commented that “Spare parts supply from the product life cycle is a growing space for us, because companies start to think about, ‘Now, how do I deliver this part 15 years from now?’”
With traditional manufacturing, a company must anticipate future demand a decade or more in advance. Then, the spare parts must be stored and distributed as demanded. Should inventory run out, a new run must be made at great expense with poor lead times. Omer explained that rather than putting the part on a shelf and waiting, with 3D printing “I can put files in my memory disk, print and deliver it in 15 years.” These three trends represent tremendous opportunity for the bold manufacturer. Enhancing infrastructure productivity by replacing physical delivery of goods with digital transmission will enable a company to generate growth in markets previously inaccessible. Optimizing for responsiveness in manufacturing operations empowers a business to profitably produce short runs on tight time schedules. Increased flexibility in supply across the product life cycle promises to improve customer satisfaction and potentially provide higher margins in long-term contracts.