What Is the Business Case for Additive Manufacturing Execution System In Spare Parts Production?

15 January 2021
additive MES for spare parts 3d printing

Additive manufacturing of spare parts is unlocking new business opportunities for manufacturers, like decreased costs, improved parts availability and minimised dependency on the supply chain through localised production.

However, you, as an AM department manager or innovation leader, know that delivering quality 3D-printed parts on-demand and in small batches is easier said than done.

While striving to ensure production efficiency, save costs and grow revenue, companies have to deal with unique challenges when it comes to storing 3D spare parts and managing their production workflows.

Challenges in additive manufacturing of spare parts

When the equipment breaks down, spare parts need to be ordered and 3D-printed quickly to prevent costly downtime. 

For this process to be efficient and repeatable, you need a complete database of AM files and production data to be able to easily find, order and produce spare parts on demand. 

Without the right system in place to maintain such a database, however, you’ll quickly start losing time, searching for needed files and information in shared folders and emails. As a result, lead times will be getting longer and people waiting for parts – more frustrated. 

Production management challenges

In the meantime, the additive manufacturing process repeatability remains your biggest concern. 

However, a lack of traceability and control over your production workflow makes ensuring part quality an arduous process – and even more so if your current system doesn’t offer access to machine performance data.   

Disconnected systems and manual processes, like spreadsheets, can’t support quick decision-making, and, therefore, are unsuitable for establishing workflow transparency and real-time access to data. 

Finally, whether you’re in the automotive, railway or heavy industry, you probably outsource a substantial part of your spare parts production to subcontractors and suppliers to be able to focus on proactive and strategic projects. 

However, with 3D-printed spare parts, the outsourcing workflow is often disorganised and siloed, preventing accurate and transparent communications with suppliers.  

Solving the challenges in additive manufacturing of spare parts with Additive MES software

1. Automating spare parts ordering with a digital part catalogue

AMFG digital catalogue
A digital part catalogue can significantly simplify the ordering and re-ordering of 3D-printed parts. [Image credit: AMFG]

To excel in additive manufacturing of spare parts, you’ll first need to set up a system that allows you to store parts as design files in a digital inventory

When the part is needed, you can just find it in your digital inventory, send the design to a 3D printer and have it ready within several hours. 

This approach will not only allow you to reduce warehousing costs but also maintain lean and agile operations by manufacturing spare parts on demand. 

The next step is to guarantee easy ordering of spare parts.  

Additive MES software provides a single platform enabling both digital inventory and centralised order management and tracking. 

Having a single system to store digital AM spare parts makes it as easy and straightforward as possible to find the design file and all the necessary data about the part, like the required process and material. Then with a click of a button, the order can be sent for production through the MES system, ultimately saving huge amounts of time and effort

Related: 4 Ways Digital Inventory Can Support Your Additive Manufacturing Operations

2. Bringing greater control to your production planning

Additive manufacturing execution software business case for organisations
Additive MES software with a Gantt chart helps to visualise capacity and plan production [Image credit: AMFG]

Achieving more traceability and repeatability across your spare parts production hinges upon automation. 

Managing the production process with MES software opens the door to full control over production planning and scheduling. With access to data like real-time machine availability, shop floor operators can optimise machine utilisation, visualise capacity and respond quickly to scheduling changes. 

Plus, the ability to automatically assign parts to build jobs based on material, delivery date or priority level reduces the chance of mistakes and streamlines scheduling even further. 

Related: How Can MES Software Transform Production Planning for Additive Manufacturing?

3. Monitoring your machines to boost productivity

Advanced additive MES software enables
integration with your machines

The key benefits of machine connectivity are the ability to access live machine data, like processing parameters, machine utilisation and failure rate. 

With the integration between AM hardware and MES software, you can establish a seamless transfer of data at every stage of AM production. 

Armed with data, you can more easily identify bottlenecks, predict part quality issues and optimise processes, facilitating greater process reliability and quality control.

Related: AMFG CEO Keyvan Karimi On The Importance Of Connectivity In The AM Workflow

4. Digitising your post-processing and QA management 

AMFG post processing module
AM shop floor workers can use MES software to conduct QA checks [Image credit: AMFG]

The beauty of MES software is that it links all stages of the production process, including the post-processing and quality management steps. 

It allows you to establish a sequence of post-processing operations, so it’s clear what is meant to be done, when and by whom.

To achieve easier quality control, shop floor operators can also use MES software to conduct quality assurance checks, to make sure that the part meets the required standards. 

The result is the ability to track all of the post-processing and QA steps, and, more importantly, to connect this critical stage to the rest of the AM workflow. 

5. Streamlining production outsourcing by integrating with suppliers 

MES system allows you to automate job routing to your partners and share data with them. Sending streams of emails and other documents back and forth to keep all parties in your supply chain updated is slow, outdated and prone to human error. 

MES software enables you to integrate with suppliers, eliminating communication downtime in the supply chain while keeping your data secure and reducing missteps in your processes.

Drive efficiency in spare parts production with additive MES software

Without automation, additive manufacturing of spare parts can quickly become unmanageable.

By investing in MES, you ensure that you can deliver quality spare parts on demand and on time, streamlining the ordering and outsourcing processes and planning production in the most efficient way possible. 

With greater process automation, the immediate benefit is obvious; you’re more efficient, so you can save time and get more done. 

Drive on-demand spare parts manufacturing with AMFG’s MES


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