Monthly Archives: March 2018

Segmenting your spare parts supply chain for 3D printing

Understanding how to identify where to use 3D printing in a supply chain is one of the first key questions to address.


From warehouse robots (very real) to equipment that you control with your mind (in the labs), new technologies appear so regularly that it can be hard to separate real from science fiction. But in the spare parts business, 3D printing has become “here and now”. Beyond cars and machine tools, 3D printers are now making spare parts to order for the US Marine Corps, container ships, and beverage filling plants. PwC’s recent survey of German manufacturers said that 85 percent of the spare parts providers assert that 3D printing will play a dominant role in their business.

Long Tail spare parts Graphic MTO 3D Printing versus MTS.jpgAs you approach this new technology, one question to consider is how to segment your inventory portfolio to determine which spare parts in your supply chain are best suited for 3D printing versus other approaches.  In addition to supply-side considerations such as manufacturability, this requires analyzing cost-to-serve across alternative distribution approaches and demand-side characteristics like order-lines per year and demand volatility.  Then the spares portfolio can be segmented into three categories.

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An additive evolution

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a growing market and one that is shifting away from traditional prototyping and into the world of direct manufacturing, as a range of industries begin to recognise its potential.

Andreas Saar, VP manufacturing engineering solutions and additive manufacturing programme lead at Siemens PLM Software, said: ‘Every industry can benefit from additive manufacturing. It is a disruptive technology that transforms every aspect of the design, simulation and the manufacturing of products. The complexity of additive manufacturing, not just over the entire lifecycle of a product but across the range of industries, is a challenge.’

A number of economic barriers must also be overcome, as Dr Jean Sreng, marketing business development manager for additive manufacturing at the ESI Group, explained: ‘Additive manufacturing is, today, a process which is cost effective at low volume and high complexity geometries. Even though we are all working to decrease this cost effectiveness ratio to achieve high volumes, more traditional manufacturing techniques such as stamping, welding, casting, will always have a complementary effectiveness with additive manufacturing.’

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