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The Impact of Direct Digital Manufacturing on Supply Chains

Hausarbeit 2011 9 Seiten

BWL - Beschaffung, Produktion, Logistik


Table of Contents

List of Tables

1 Introduction

2 The impact of rapid manufacturing on demand for logistics services

3 Opportunities to gain competitive advantages

4 Conclusion

List of references

List of Tables

Table 2.1: Distinguishing attributes of lean and agile

1 Introduction

Rapid manufacturing can be defined as ‘the use of a computer aided design (CAD)-based automated additive manufacturing process to construct parts that are used directly as finished products or components’ (Hopkinson, Hague and Dickens, 2006, p.1). In other words, it is a method where products or components are produced by ‘printing’ digital data as a three-dimensional product using one of different layer-by-layer construction processes(Excell and Nathan, 2010). However, this idea of three-dimensional printing is not new. Formerly known as rapid prototyping, the technology is used for more than a decade to fabricate prototypes for many different areas (Burns and Howison, 2001; The Economist, 2011 a). Nonetheless, with recent research and development, improved fabbing machines have been developed that can already treat different materials such as ceramics, metals, nylons, polymers and others (Reeves, 2008; The Economist, 2011 b). For this reason, different companies of different industries have already started experimenting with rapid manufacturing as an alternative to traditional manufacturing (Excell and Nathan, 2010) in order to make use of the technology’s benefits which undoubtedly exist.

The aim of the available report is to illuminate these characteristics and benefits with respect to predicted impacts on the demand of logistics services as well as supply chains in particular. Furthermore, opportunities for logistics companies of gaining competitive advantages from the development of rapid manufacturing are being suggested.

2 The impact of rapid manufacturing on demand for logistics services

In literature, rapid manufacturing is described as a new industrial revolution with respect to the digital age (Hopkinson, Hague and Dickens, 2006; The Economist, 2011 b). This statement is derived from the technology’s benefits in comparison to traditional manufacturing. Different authors agree that rapid manufacturing might have the future potential to revolutionize the manufacturing and hence the corresponding activities including those of the supply chains (Day, 2011; Reeves, 2008; von der Gracht, 2008). In the following, the characteristics and the benefits of rapid manufacturing shall be correlated to possible impacts for demand of logistics services and supply chain.

Generally, the impact on the demand of logistics services is not only caused by single benefits of the technology. It is rather the combination of different benefits that could have an enormous impact. The major statement is, assuming that the technology will become accepted in the future, that many of the traditional stages of supply chain management such as transportation, warehousing and handling will possibly be eliminated or at least reduced (Reeves, 2008).

The major advantage for manufacturers or product designers is the application of lean and also agile approaches related to their processes. From their point of view, this technology can combine both lean and agile approaches and their corresponding advantages. Mason-Jones, Naylor and Towill (2000) state different attributes of lean and agile (see table 2.1):

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Table 2.1: Distinguishing attributes of lean and agile; Source: Mason-Jones, Naylor and Towill (2000)

Actually, Table 2.1 should distinguish several attributes in order to differentiate the applicable approach. However, in case of rapid manufacturing it gets obvious that the characteristics provided by the technology can be found in both columns. For instance, although the product variety may be fairly high or the product life cycle is very short, the company is still able to apply lean thinking to its processes as mostly raw materials are needed for production and the production itself can be postponed to the point of demand. Furthermore, no inventory of finished goods or even work-in-progress material is needed.

Hence, whereas lean thinking includes the elimination of any waste in the supply chain processes (Taylor and Brunt, 2002), agile thinking is all about being responsive to the customers and sudden changes of demand (Christopher and Rutherford, 2004). The lean thinking within this technology is based on the reduction of time- and cost-consuming activities mentioned before. Agility can be provided by postponement, i.e. the delay of manufacturing or distribution until a customer order is received (Cheng et al., 2010). In the case of rapid manufacturing, the postponement could even be delayed until the end of the supply chain as customers are also able to print their product on their own if they have the corresponding fabbing machines (Burns and Howison, 2001). Due to these facts, rapid manufacturing can be seen in the context of ‘leagility’ as described by Childerhouse and Towill (2000) who associate this expression with the combination of lean and agile advantages.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
490 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh
direct digital manufacturing rapid manufacturing fabbing 3d printing supply chain



Titel: The Impact of Direct Digital Manufacturing on Supply Chains