Additive Manufacturing for spare parts | Industry 4.0 | Deloitte Netherlands

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Spare parts printing reduces dependency on international supply chains

COVID-19 spurs organisations to identify parts eligible for printing

The current pandemic once again demonstrates the importance of a digital supply network (DSN)—a digital twin that mirrors a physical supply chain. Spare parts printing is an important element of any DSN. Identifying parts that can and should be printed and then taking a bottom-up and holistic approach to making them is the way forward.

Printing spare parts

COVID-19 affects international supply chains. At many companies, machines have shut down because they need spare parts that must be imported from abroad. Such geopolitical supply chain challenges are not new: trade barriers and trade wars have historically affected the import of physical goods or the related import tariffs. 

Companies can reduce their dependency on the international supply chain and save money by printing some of their spare parts on demand at or nearby the geographic locations where the parts are needed. Organisations that start using 3D printing near their factories eliminate import restrictions and high import tariffs. Spare parts printing reduces the need for physical stocks and offers higher availability. Other money-savers include lower inventory costs, lower transportation costs, reduced cost of customisation and no minimum order quantity.

Start small

But how should organisations deal with potentially thousands of spare parts? Our approach is to start small so the value of 3D printing in supply chains can be added immediately. To do this, organisations should conduct a technical printability and economic viability assessment to first identify which spare parts they can and should print.

Whether a part can be printed is based on technical dimensions such as size, material and complexity. Whether an organisation should print a part is based on economic reasons: What would be the cost of downtime if that specific part isn’t available? 

Often, legacy parts are ripe for printing. These crucial components of decades-old machines sometimes can’t be ordered or, if they can, often only in larger minimum order quantities. This could lead to overstocking and waste. For OEMs, 3D printing these parts could be more interesting than mass production and stockpiling. 

One challenge is that often, no technical data on parts is digitally available. But by making a 3D scan model of parts, all relevant technical data becomes available. Sometimes it's also possible to redesign a part to improve its performance or reduce its weight. 

Scale fast

Small projects like this often immediately show their value. But what’s next? A combination of a bottom-up and holistic approach to spare parts printing. Organisations should continue identifying spare parts that can be printed. In the holistic approach, different departments work closely together towards a common goal: reducing the total cost of ownership. Part of this approach is building a digital supply network, developing a roadmap for the full integration of spare parts printing and assessing the required capabilities needed to scale. 

In the spare parts catalogue, 3D data and ERP data must be combined so that afterwards, smart data models can screen an organisation's spare parts catalogue and identify the parts eligible for automatic printing. Systems with the relevant data of spare parts should be synchronised, and new processes must be integrated into existing processes in order to scale and maximise the benefits of 3D printing in the supply chain. 

The right approach

Our experience with several clients shows there’s a clear and immediate business case for spare parts printing at OEMs, industrial components distributors and other parts-intensive companies. Printing spare parts rather than stocking them can decrease costs, increase service, reduce waste and minimise an organisation’s dependency on the international supply chain. But only with the right approach organisations are able to reap the full and immediate benefits of spare parts printing.

DiManEx and Deloitte work closely together on spare parts printing projects. Deloitte has extensive experience in supply chain transformation projects and knows how to scale fast and institutionalise new technologies in existing processes. DiManEx helps organisations integrate digital manufacturing technologies into their supply chain workflow. Part of their service is Supply Chain Inspector, an analytics engine that helps companies identify the right parts for 3D printing. 

Additive Manufacturing for spare parts

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More information?

Do you want to find out how spare parts printing will benefit your organisation? Please download our point of view or reach out to André Barneveld Binkhuysen or Natascha Hermsen via the contact information below.

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