Additive Manufacturing in the Supply Chain

Looking to learn how additive manufacturing can benefit your supply chain? Alexander Daniels Global can help. This article will explore how recruiting for an additive manufacturing role can benefit the supply chain.

The events of the last two years have had an unprecedented impact on the supply chain. The impact of Brexit, the global pandemic and transport issues has had a knock-on effect on the supply chain resulting in empty shelves for consumers around the globe.

In recent years, manufacturers have adopted a just-in-time (JIT) business model to increase efficiency. A JIT supply chain strategy means that products are manufactured immediately before they’re needed. As a result, there is less product to be stored which keeps costs low. This business model works well when everything runs as it should – however, it is not flexible when unexpected events arise. This is where additive manufacturing comes in, as it can help ease the disruption of unforeseen circumstances.

Advantages of additive manufacturing in the supply chain

For a successful supply chain, each part of the chain must work like a cog in a finely oiled machine. When just one part fails, this can impact all parts of the supply chain. Some advantages of additive manufacturing include:

  • Parts can be replaced quickly – In a JIT supply chain, just enough parts are manufactured. Miscalculations, breakages or delays in materials can hold up production. Spare parts can be printed quickly with additive manufacturing reducing the dependence on multiple suppliers.
  • Reduced warehouse costs – Parts can be printed on-site, on 3D printers, on-demand, reducing the need for storage.
  • Reduced lead times – Lead times can be cut as the additive manufacturing process takes less time than traditional tooling and fabrication processes.
  • Less waste – By using an additive manufacturing process, there is little to no waste, helping businesses to adopt more sustainable business practices.
  • Lower transportation costs – As parts can be printed onsite, transportation costs are reduced as only raw materials need to be printed.

How can additive manufacturing improve the supply chain in the future

The events of the last two years have forced manufacturers to consider how their supply chain works. Businesses are considering the opportunities additive manufacturing brings to all stages of the supply chain both now and in the future.

Since 2020, global risks such as geopolitical conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, trade tariffs and climate change have all led to a shift in manufacturing trends, with more businesses looking for ways to adopt a deglobalized supply chain.

In fact, DHL’s recently updated Logistics Trend Radar shows the trend in business and technology that are likely to be realized over the next 10 years and the level of impact each trend is set to have on the logistics landscape.

With ‘Supply Chain Diversification’ among some of the trends set to impact the logistics landscape highly within the next 5 years, it is interesting to see in stark contrast that ‘3D Printing’ is still considered low impact and only likely to be realized in the next 5-10 years as technology supporting sustainability and ‘Alternative Energy Solutions’ takes a more prominent position on the radar.

This is an interesting observation to make as evangelists would debate that 3D printing technologies could instead hugely impact not just the logistics landscape, but the supply chain as a whole:

DHL's Logistics Trend Radar 6.0

The Internet of Things

We are already experiencing evidence of how the Internet of Things (IoT) is supporting de-globalization of the supply chain through the collection and exchange of data between smart objects and devices and other connected devices. In the future, the manufacturing industry will continue to benefit from internet-based technology.

In the supply chain, IoT can be used to make the manufacturing process smarter and more efficient. Some of the benefits include:

  • Machine learning: Utilizing the data learned to predict trends in the supply chain, which can help make the supply chain become more resilient in the future.
  • Automated inspection: Smart machines could be used for inspection purposes throughout the supply chain, collecting data on inventory, delivery and provide automated quality assurance.
  • Automated machine maintenance: Smart data can be collected on the condition of machinery and provide alerts on any maintenance that needs to be done.  
  • Automated manufacturing technology: Industrial operations can be carried out without human intervention which increases productivity and efficiency.

Streamlined Supplier Network

We can already see evidence that where supply chains have adopted additive manufacturing methods, they have seen the benefits of deglobalization in their supplier network. The additive manufacturing process replaces machined, tooled or casted elements and therefore eliminates the need for many supply-based processes. This includes those involved in reshoring or offshoring production.

The past two years have proved we cannot rely on globalized manufacturing within the supply chain. Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, additive manufacturing is a reliable way of future-proofing the supply chain.

Borderless Production

Decentralized production is the future of additive manufacturing. Developments in additive manufacturing allow organizations to keep costs low, even when manufacturing in countries where labor costs are higher. The development of the IoT allows build files to be shared via cloud platforms, meaning parts can be printed on-demand and on-site allowing truly borderless production.   

Reaching Sustainability Goals

It’s likely that in the future there will be more of a focus on sustainability in the supply chain. Additive manufacturing can help businesses reach their sustainability goals with less waste, lighter loads to transport and decentralized production. A large number of materials that aren’t used in production can be recycled and used in the future to limit waste. 

Boeing’s ‘BAM’ division has already demonstrated the strides they’ve made in improving the sustainability of their manufacturing processes using 3D printing.

How can Alexander Daniels Global Help?

Here at Alexander Daniels Global, we conduct direct sourcing through targeted headhunting to access inactive candidates, alongside our database and extensive network of active candidates. To put it simply, your 3D recruitment needs can be seamlessly handled by our specialist team – putting the right candidates in front of you when you need them most.

Alternatively, if you’re working in the additive manufacturing industry, get in touch or browse our career portal to apply for our varied open job vacancies.

For more information about how we can help, contact our team of expert recruiters today. We also have a wealth of HR resources, such as our annual salary survey, to help you stay on top of hiring trends.

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