There are a dozen words to describe it, but at its core, lean manufacturing focuses on eliminating waste. In the pioneering Toyota Production System, it was described as muda. There are seven elements that firms strive to eliminate when improving their processes: stock management, waiting, lead time, over-processing, motion, transportation, and defects. The primary means of addressing these have been through administrative, process, or routine changes. Additive Manufacturing is a revolution in reaching lean process goals because the methodology allows for changes throughout the manufacturing process, from part development to assembly and finishing. The versatility can be demonstrated with the metaphor of a sculptor working on a piece of marble versus a painter working with acrylics: the former chips away or cuts out pieces to make parts in traditional methods, while the latter (i.e., Additive Manufacturing) begins from a blank canvas.
Stock Management, Waiting, and Lead Time in Additive Manufacturing
The major goal of most manufacturing concerns is “just-in-time” production, without lead times and reliance on suppliers, either domestic or overseas. At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the shipment and delivery of products around the world, but the muda of waiting on parts is critical regardless of global conditions. Additive Manufacturing promotes keeping material on site or ordering in batches that can be completed based on orders.
This helps minimize the stock of parts so only what is required for immediate run is on hand at any given time. By reducing the need for secondary suppliers, the chain becomes smaller and less variable. In addition, for parts that may deteriorate or require significant storage requirements, this reduces costs in terms of temporary holding, where lighting and cooling costs are reduced over time.
Over-Processing and Motion
Traditional machining requires parts to be either extruded using custom molds or tooled using machining for metal components. Every additional feature in a component adds another step to be completed by an employee or a machine, leading to increased motion in any manufacturing process. In the example of metal components, every additional bend or curve requires a step in the process, even if it can be done on the same machine.
Additive Manufacturing limits this by using a single process to produce components and only using the material needed to create that part. No additional waste is incurred except where necessary in specialized and intricate designs. This reduces the need to work one or more parts several times in order to be ready for assembly.
Motion is another part of the manufacturing process that is often overlooked. Having to package components from other suppliers, spillage and accidents along the assembly line can significantly increase production costs and time. Additive Manufacturing components allows them to be placed where they will limit motion during the production process. In addition, the safety margin around printing devices can be much smaller than those for metal-cutting and metal-bending, allowing for their placement closer to other portions of assembly.
Transportation and Defects
Limiting the number of defective components and therefore, wasted materials is one of the principal contributions that Additive Manufacturing can provide for lean processes. Since there is only a single process in use to create the component, there is little or no waste, except occasionally when it comes to finishing the product. This, however, would be similar for pieces made using traditional manufacturing processes.
Using production management software that streamlines and analyzes processes can also help Additive Manufacturing reduce defects. Engineers can review production design for any potential issues, and if there are concerns, the material can simply be re-inserted into the printing devices, rather than go to waste in a scrap pile.
In that same vein, transportation is often a concern for manufacturing due to the disparate supply chains required to put together complex products in a single location. The Additive Manufacturing process allows many parts to be produced on site without having to outsource to other suppliers. This reduces the costs of transportation, from energy usage to emissions.
Additive Manufacturing: Key Takeaways
It’s true that Additive Manufacturing can help reduce waste in the assembly of various components. However, that does not mean that on its own, it can be a panacea that solves all issues without diligence and repeated inspections. Using the right quality management system can help detect flaws in the initial layers of an AM piece. This allows for changes in design or whatever else you need to ensure that the repeatability of components is feasible.
To learn more about what can happen when a QMS is used in Additive Manufacturing, check out our customer success stories.
When your quality control process needs improvement, you’re wasting time and money. You are also putting future business at risk, and we know how small of an industry this can be. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word to their colleagues, which can hurt future sales. Recognize the warning signs and take action today by contacting Bluestreak | Bright AM.
If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bluestreak | Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!