How Organizations Can Utilize the ‘Additive Manufacturing Maturity Model’ to Enable an Agile and Resilient Supply Chain
The Additive Manufacturing industry has started to fulfill its promise, and many of the world’s largest economies are taking notice. The 21.2 percent growth of the additive manufacturing industry ($11.867 billion) in 2019 is foundational proof of the industry’s momentum.
Additive manufacturing is enabling new technologies in a cyclical, “virtuous cycle.”
This advancement is due to the additive manufacturing industry having entered the “virtuous cycle”, a positive chain of events, reinforcing the progress of the industry. Meaning, “the more engineers that design products, the more applications we will have. The more applications there are, the broader the material selection becomes. With this combination, we are starting to see new generations of machines, with broader material capabilities, larger build volumes, and serial production print times and quality. These advancements are now pushing the downstream technologies into a virtuous cycle to complete the manufacturing process."
This “virtuous cycle” has meant that additive manufacturing technologies have rapidly matured and will only continue to be improved upon in the future, as the loop reinforces itself. In summary, innovation within materials, printers, and a host of post-processing and downstream technologies, showcase the capabilities and processes are constantly evolving.
Additive has Crossed the Chasm of Adoption
As many of us already know, the additive world is not just for the tech enthusiasts and visionaries anymore. Use cases for Additive extend beyond R&D and prototyping as organizations have begun to utilize Additive for series production with previous success under their belt. The virtuous cycle has pushed the industry beyond the narrow but necessary adoption window by innovators and early adopters, through the chasm and into the mainstream market. As innovators set the foundation for Additive, adoption is becoming mainstream across a variety of industries.
We see Additive continuing on a positive trajectory as organizations are strategizing and creating their 5-10 year digital manufacturing plans, building practical approaches to utilize Additive alongside their traditional manufacturing technologies for series production.
The growth of Additive causes added complexity and challenges
Although the progress of Additive enables agile supply chains, opportunities for cost reduction, supply chain resiliency, product advancement, and enables vision to delivery on technology that has not been possible before, this advancement comes with challenges of added complexity.
Because the additive manufacturing industry is in a constantly evolving state, organizations face the challenge of keeping up with the ever-changing technology while trying to scale up their additive operations to meet demands.
Innovation within Additive has historically been focused on the machines and the technology within the machines; machines to produce complex geometries, machines to print faster, machines to utilize different materials. But as organizations begin to utilize Additive for on-demand printing, concurrent manufacturing, and series production, the focus has to shift from the hardware to the environment in which these machines operate. Isn’t the end-goal for Additive to achieve repeatable, quality parts that meet standards and regulations and to be a “new” tool within the supply chain? If so, there is a critical need for innovation beyond hardware.
How organizations can mitigate risks within their Additive supply chains
While the virtuous cycle and the adoption curve are tools to assess the progress of the additive industry, the “Additive Manufacturing Maturity Model” is a process Link3D has applied to its customer base and future prospects to assess organizations’ Additive maturity across people, process, and technology.
A critical component in how organizations grow their additive manufacturing operations is discipline - from both a process and financial perspective. Link3D guides organizations through their AM Maturity, and consolidates data into a single unified data layer, translating information into actionable insights to prove return on investment for Additive.
We believe that understanding the organizations’ stage of maturity is a necessary discipline in order for organizations to set up a strategy to reach their digital manufacturing vision.
Diving into the “Additive Manufacturing Maturity Model”
The Maturity Model can be used as a benchmark for organizations to visualize the growth of their Additive operations and strategize on how to mitigate scaling pains associated with risks.
The Reactive Stage
Organizations in the “reactive” stage are just beginning to dip their toe into AM. Typically they are evaluating the host of technology options available and comparing them to opportunities they have identified for best fit. Organizations within the reactive stage tend to be focused on R&D and possibly low volume production, and are starting to envision new possibilities based on their successes.
When organizations are in the reactive stage, they are just beginning their journey and there tends to be fewer strategic decisions inclusive of capacity, facilities, verticals, and technology integration. Ultimately, the risk of living in the reactive stage is the inability to create strategic vision around the potential future as organizations are acting in response rather than creating or controlling situations. This becomes a limiting factor for organizations as they find strategic opportunities to leverage the technology through their R&D efforts.
Through lessons learned in the reactive stage, organizations in the “informed” stage have begun identifying strategic uses for AM within their business model. They may have started identifying ways to include Additive in their operational and financial plans, but are struggling as the manual work and volume of data drives complexity.
As the additive industry is complex, fast paced, and constantly evolving, organizations within the informed stage risk staying stagnant as they may miss new market opportunities and become obsolete.
When organizations operate in the “managed” stage, they tend to have high human capital with manual workflows. As demand has increased, new or previously adopted siloed solutions present additional risks as systems are disconnected, leaving room for human error, loss of data, and challenges to meet stringent customer quality requirements. By remaining in the managed stage, organizations’ future growth and profitability is limited.
We have observed that organizations in the managed stage are past the point of no return with a sizable investment in infrastructure, people, and technology, however they are stuck at a “brick wall” with analog and point solutions. The brick wall inherently limits a unified data layer and ultimately blocks the ability to move into an automated stage.
Moving into the “automated” stage is the foundational first step organizations must take in order to start their digital manufacturing journey. This transition is only possible with the adoption of a unified data model powering a true end-to-end solution. Organizational alignment across key stakeholders regarding a digital manufacturing strategy enables best in class integration into a central operating system.
Internal misalignment of change management presents risks as an organization may attempt to build a solution in-house without viable long-term expertise, or the adoption of an unfit solution, leading to failure
Forward-thinking organizations in the “predictive” stage are taking AM a step further by incorporating data analytics into their processes. At this predictive stage of AM, teams are performing the same functions as they do during the automated stage (mitigating friction points, and delivering design optimization insights), but are doing so in ways that both enable and drive their profitable expansion of additive manufacturing. Moreover, data-centric teams have the power to deliver insights when and where it’s most likely to be most impactful.
Establishing the foundation of your AM strategy is inherently important as this is the foundation that the digital thread is built upon. If the correct data model was not established in previous stages, the predictive outcomes that are guiding organizations key decisions can be misleading.
Link3D enables Additive Manufacturing Maturity
Link3D is dedicated to help businesses scale additive manufacturing for industrialization and mitigate associated risks. Organizations must consider their digital manufacturing strategy earlier in the AM journey to ensure sustainable business growth as they expand AM capabilities.
The digital revolution is still early but clearly starting to take shape. The strain that Covid-19 has put on global supply chains, is just another example of why organizations must think agile and resilience when it comes to their supply chains. Digital connectivity among designers, engineers, managers, technicians, and physical industrial assets will unlock enormous value and change the manufacturing landscape forever.