UK manufacturing and engineering companies are facing an unheralded series of challenges, from COVID-19 recovery, loss of workforce, disrupted supply chains, increased raw material costs, high energy costs and the transition to a greener economy. It’s not a pleasant world to be operating in manufacturing right now!
But without challenges, there would not be change. And change brings opportunities for growth and improvement.
Companies that today are embracing a range of digital technologies to lower their costs, increase their efficiency and gain the agility needed in such uncertain times, are the same companies that are succeeding today, and also positioning themselves for long-term competitive advantage.
Those companies are successfully growing through the adoption of Additive Manufacturing.
Based on our experience of supporting customers for the last decade in this field, we have seen 3 general trends which lead to successful adoption and integration of Additive.
1) Non-Silo Approach
The strategy and support for Additive Manufacturing must be in place at senior management level, but it should involve and be committed to, by all departments.
Whilst the initial drive and immediate impact will likely be led by Engineering, the successful adoption of Additive will involve all other teams. Take for example;
Purchasing – how to reduce the heavy time burden of seeking multiple quotes, raising purchase orders and managing multiple suppliers, whilst reducing budget spend across the organisation? 3D printing components in-house and on-demand, results in lower costs, greater agility, reduces lead times and purchasing admin.
HR – how to acquire and retain talent? The workforce not only expects to be using, but is also highly motivated to access the latest tools. In particular, young engineers come equipped with CAD skills to accelerate the use of 3D printing in a business. Also, Additive can also be used as an assistive technology to support manual processes, reducing workplace injuries, and as an enabler for tasks to be opened to people with a wider range of abilities.
Logistics and warehousing – is it logical to be storing 100s of components for weeks or months having transported them from the Far East? Using Additive Manufacturing you can on-shore, transitioning to produce those parts on-demand via a digital warehouse, reducing costs and space, making a greener footprint and all without being subjected to potential supply chain disruptions and shipping delays.
Sales – how to differentiate your products and services? How can you respond to demand for bespoke products and enter new markets? Additive enables both design freedom and the ability to manufacture obsolete and unique parts – enabling your sales teams to tailor a bespoke offering.
2) Build your Additive Roadmap
If you looked at 3D printers previously over the past few years, and the technology wasn’t right for your organisation at the time, then my advice is.…look again.
All technology changes and improves over time, and Additive Manufacturing is no different. We are now at the point where Additive Manufacturing has developed from being used for ‘basic prototyping’ to now being a valuable engineering tool and a viable solution for low volume manufacturing.
As with any technology, a roadmap is essential.
Start now with your quick wins. Identify those applications where Additive is a solution for today, for example in your design, R&D and engineering teams for manufacturing aids, NPD and production efficiencies. You will see a fast return on investment and positive results.
Then build a roadmap for the applications that will be suitable, as the technology continues to further progress over the next 5 years. For example, onshoring manufacturing, digitising your warehouse and integrating Additive technologies into your company’s systems and processes including CMM and ERP.
3) Right machine, right application, right material
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, no single 3D printer that will solve all your engineering problems and fulfil all your applications today.
Additive embraces a wealth of different techniques that have different capabilities, use different materials, produce parts of different sizes, with different intended uses. There is also the ability for the hardware to be integrated into company’s systems and processes.
How and which Additive technologies to integrate will become apparent through the process of building, reviewing and evolving your roadmap. In fact, for some applications, Additive is not the right solution, but in the same way you choose your traditional manufacturing method according to requirements, the same approach should be taken towards Additive.
The key is to build a comprehensive toolbox of Additive technologies, so your teams have the right tools to use for the right jobs. Taking an open and coordinated approach across your organisation to 3D printing will also expedite your learning, agility and flexibility to produce, refine and deliver enhanced products and services to your clients. Not only will you gain and maintain your competitive advantage in this uncertain environment, but your teams will be able to realise substantial process, product and price improvements faster.
And, my final tip… above all, seek advice! Come and talk with us. You are passionate about manufacturing, we are passionate about Additive. Together we will help guide you through this successful adoption.
My team and I will be at Smart Factory, stand G23. Come get 15 minutes of ‘speed-advice’ from us, we’d really love to help you succeed with Additive Manufacturing.
Book a 15 min appointment with us here.
About the author
Simon Chandler, Managing Director, CREAT3D formed CREAT3D, specialist in Additive Manufacturing in 2012. Having worked with forward-thinking companies in Automotive, Defence, Engineering, FMCG and Technology, Simon is a firm believer that the UK can be a manufacturing powerhouse and global innovator. In times of change, challenge and innovation, Additive Manufacturing can be revolutionary in providing competitive advantage.
0800 689 1011