Manufacturing is evolving at a rapid pace. With more competition than ever and increasingly tight margins, companies are looking at every competitive advantage.
Most service-level manufacturers are shifting to agile manufacturing strategies as a way to improve efficiency and profitability. If your competitors are making the shift aggressively, it can be easy to fall behind.
Agile Manufacturing Must Be a Competitive Priority
While we’ve all had to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic, agile companies managed the pivot the best. The agile mindset allowed Additive Manufacturers (AMs) in particular to maneuver through challenges more quickly and generate new revenue streams. As manufacturers move forward, they’ll need an agile approach and the right technology and software to drive the process.
The Differences between Lean Manufacturing and Agile Manufacturing
Many people confuse a lean manufacturing approach with an agile manufacturing strategy. While both are ways to manage your business effectively, it’s important to know the differences when approaching your organization.
Lean manufacturing focuses primarily on minimizing costs without sacrificing the quality of the goods produced. This is often accomplished by reducing the amount that is invested in raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods inventory.
There’s also a relentless focus on continuous process improvement for ever-increasing efficiency.
Agile manufacturing is more about reacting (or anticipating) changes and responding to shifting customer demands quickly. With an agile mindset, production processes can be adapted to create new parts or different specifications. Auto manufacturers have been employing these strategies for years. Part of their system design process incorporates how to build new models without having to retool production lines.
In Additive Manufacturing work, it’s all about custom and complex parts. When you’re trying to optimize the return on investment, there’s no time to retool. During the pandemic, agile AMs were able to create complex and custom geometries rapidly without retooling. Whether it was shifting to producing respirators, using injection molding for mask adapters, or 3D-printing test swabs, the industry responded in a significant way.
This was crucial for the medical community, but it also allowed many manufacturers to survive despite significant disruption to supply chains. When companies were unable to get parts for production, agile AMs were able to fill the void.
Both lean manufacturing and agile manufacturing are essential strategies to increase sustainability, improve profitability, and remain competitive. Both require real-time analytics and the elimination of information silos to facilitate consistent communication across the organization.
Agile Manufacturing Is a Competitive Priority for Additive Manufacturing
Agile manufacturing can’t happen if you’re still dependent on manual processes and product development cycles. Additive Manufacturing must be able to ensure quality, repeatability, traceability, and data transparency for optimal results.
Data movement and real-time visibility are vital for managing agile production and supply chains.
An agile and efficient Additive Manufacturing requires streamlining everything in the process by using the right manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS), such as Bluestreak | Bright AM. It combines an MES and QMS system into one extensible and real-time software solution that was built exclusively for Additive Manufacturing.
Bluestreak | Bright AM also helps overcome a few of the barriers to agile manufacturing.
Barriers to Agile Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing
If an agile mindset is so important, why do so many Additive Manufacturers fail to embrace it? Here are a few reasons:
- A lack of expertise to manage the production pathway
- A lack of infrastructure development and workflow
- Continued use of manual processing, testing, and data management
When agile manufacturing is a competitive priority, it takes an investment in time to rethink production processes and production pathways, develop the infrastructure and workflow, and automate data collection and sharing. That’s where Bluestreak | Bright AM excels.
Bluestreak | Bright AM: A Solution for Agile Manufacturing
Unlike ERP/MRP solutions, Bluestreak | Bright AM is built for Additive Manufacturing.
By automating much of the workflow, Bluestreak | Bright AM simplifies the entire process and ensures that everybody in the production chain is always dealing with the latest information. It eliminates lost or misfiled forms or inaccurate or outdated information. Everything is available in real-time down to individual operators on the production line. It eliminates information silos that cause errors to occur.
When a flaw or nonconformance is discovered, Bluestreak | Bright AM allows you to quickly resolve the issue and communicate the necessary corrective measures. It reduces the chance that production will continue with nonconforming parts or that operators will miss key adjustments that they need to make as a result of the corrective action.
Because every item, material, machine, and operator is tracked throughout the entire process, there’s built-in traceability that’s essential to Additive Manufacturing.
With Bluestreak | Bright AM, you get the full package of software to interconnect your shop floor and notifications, as well as the resources to fully train your team.
If agile manufacturing is a competitive priority for your company, contact Bluestreak | Bright AM today for a demo and make the shift to an agile manufacturing environment.