Additive Manufacturing for spare parts | Industry 4.0 | Deloitte Netherlands

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Additive Manufacturing for spare parts: an introduction

How building a digital inventory helps your spare parts management 

As 3D printing technology continues to improve and as materials become more affordable, additive manufacturing for spare parts is becoming increasingly interesting. Spare parts printing is now a serious answer to spare parts management challenges; some asset-heavy organisations have already left the pilot phase.

Rise of using spare parts printing

In the Netherlands, several trains with printed spare parts are already in use. The NS, the Dutch Railways, can now replace dozens of train parts with printed parts. Whereas in the past, the transport company sometimes had to wait weeks for the replacement of a broken spare part, NS can now put a train back into use within a few days. And that is huge progress.

NS is not the first organization where spare parts printing has become a serious element of spare parts management. In 2018, NS’s German sister Deutsche Bahn printed 15,000 spare parts for its trains. And ERIKS, a Dutch industrial products provider with over 900,000 parts in stock, has also started printing some spare parts. 

Additive manufacturing (AM) is a construction method that creates 3D objects layer-by-layer using a 3D printer. It has developed significantly in the past few years. Printing techniques have improved, the price of 3D printers has dropped and they can print more and more different types of materials, even combining different materials in one printed object.

Additive Manufacturing for spare parts

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Spare parts management of asset-heavy organisations and manufacturers

As manufacturers and asset-heavy companies struggle with their spare parts management, developments in AM make it commercially interesting for them to start building a digital inventory for spare parts printing. We see our clients challenged by the short life cycles of parts, which causes a quick rotation of new parts to be held in stock. Asset-heavy companies sometimes have to wait weeks for the replacement of a broken spare part, which has a negative impact on the uptime of their assets. The alternative—to have all parts in stock and express-delivered—is a huge cost or pressure on balance sheets. 

Manufacturers, including OEMs, often produce spare parts in large quantities to reduce costs. But managing hundreds of thousands of in-stock spare parts results in high inventory costs. Finding the right spare part and then sending it to a client on the other side of the world sometimes takes weeks, which has a negative impact on customer satisfaction. Other manufacturers choose to stop providing some spare parts at all, leaving their clients empty-handed, which also negatively impacts customer satisfaction. Additive manufacturing makes it possible to produce spare parts in small quantities, even single items, at a very low cost. Parts can also be printed locally, which saves transportation time and costs. 

Building a digital inventory

The examples of NS, Deutsche Bahn and ERIKS show there’s definitely a business case for spare parts printing. Asset-heavy companies that start building their digital inventory reduce their dependence on OEMs; manufacturers and OEMs can change their spare parts business model by using additive manufacturing. 

Printing some of your spare parts rather than holding them in stock can decrease costs, increase spare parts functionality, increase service and reduce risk.

More information?

Want to know more about additive manufacturing for spare parts? Please download our point of view or reach out to André Barneveld Binkhuysen, Natascha Hermsen or Marjolein Schipper via the contact information below.

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