The beauty industry is in a constant state of transformation: customers expect better, more personalised experiences, with an increased focus on sustainability and localisation.
To keep up with the dynamic consumer landscape, L’Oréal, one of the largest cosmetics and beauty companies in the world, has embraced 3D printing. This digital manufacturing technology helps the company to reduce time to market for new products, reduce environmental impact, and bring added value to customers.
“We use 3D printing with the key focus on improving agility within the company to get products to market faster,” says Matthew Forrester, Additive Technical Manager at L’Oréal. “The faster we can go from an idea to a prototype, the faster we can iterate and validate it. 3D printing helps us to speed up this process and get a better product at the end of the development cycle.”
“In addition to prototyping, we’re using the technology to make parts for our plants and also to create ergonomic tools for operators, therefore improving their safety.”
“The final area that we’re looking at is how we can apply additive manufacturing to bring added value to the customers, such as new geometries, new materials and localised production.”
The Challenge: Inefficient Quoting and Handling of 3D Printing Orders
Prototyping remains the largest use case for 3D printing at L’Oréal, with thousands of prototypes produced each year at its 3DLab in Clichy, France.
Managing this production volume has been no mean feat for the 3DLab’s team. A typical scenario of ordering a prototype would require engineers at L’Oréal to send emails with production requirements and 3D design files or even bring USB sticks to a 3D printing lab to have their files 3D-printed.
On the back end, 3DLab managers had to calculate the cost of orders, which posed additional challenges.
“The costing was fixed per part, which was sometimes dissuasive for smaller components. If a customer ordered several hundred parts, a special price would have to be created to reflect this,” Matthew explains.
“To accelerate time-to-market even further, we needed to eliminate duplication of effort and reduce low value-added activity. Without a leaner approach to managing our 3D printing workflow, there was no way for us to achieve these goals.”
The Solution: Embracing Workflow Automation for 3D Printing
“We knew that we could optimise our processes by using software for order submission and handling.”
After trying several different alternatives, L’Oréal chose to go with AMFG’s MES and workflow management software for two primary reasons: the ability to offer custom development and its modular functionality.
“We wanted to have a scalable solution, with which it’d be possible to start small and then add modules as our technology evolved and matured. This is something we have found with AMFG.”
Additive Technical Manager at L'Oréal
3DLab’s team, alongside AMFG’s technical support team, worked together to implement the AMFG platform. The implementation included installing AMFG’s web request portal, instant price calculation and part visualisation tools.
Using AMFG’s web request portal enables engineers and designers at L’Oréal to easily order and re-order 3D-printed parts. AMFG’s portal also provides access to a personalised dashboard, where engineers can track the status of their orders online.
“AMFG allows engineers to place an order by dragging and dropping a 3D file in its native format, so we don’t have to go through an additional file conversion step,” says Matthew.
Once the order is placed, L’Oréal’s 3D printing lab managers can track all incoming orders through AMFG’s project management tools. The backend system also enables project managers to analyse, repair files and price parts.
“With the AMFG platform, we were able to implement a 3-tier part-size pricing strategy based on print time. Not only has the ability to customise the pricing of 3D parts allowed us to calculate 3D printing costs more accurately, but it also helped us to automate yet another low value-added task for the lab assistants.”
The Results: Streamlined Workflow Has Accelerated Prototypes Turnaround
After using AMFG’s software for almost a year, L’Oréal’s 3DLab team has noticed a range of improvements.
“AMFG’s workflow management solution allowed us to automate previously manual steps, gain greater visibility and better coordinate our internal processes.”
AMFG’s software also provided L’Oréal’s engineering and operations team with a universal file viewer, allowing anybody in the team to quickly check 3D files before placing orders and without having to use any file conversion software. This functionality has provided additional flexibility to the internal ordering process.
Finally, with AMFG’s software, L’Oréal’s 3DLab has enhanced visibility into its operations.
“When you manage operations using siloed or manual solutions, you don’t have access to all this data. With a digital solution from AMFG, we now can evaluate our operations more efficiently and drive performance improvements.”
“AMFG’s MES software has simplified our 3D printing workflow and given our engineers and 3DLab managers access to powerful tools, which they didn’t have before. We can safely say that AMFG’s solutions have enabled us to produce prototypes faster, taking our lab to the next level of productivity and efficiency.”