Additive Manufacturing has come a long way—from using 3D techniques to create prototypes and proof-of-concept to becoming mainstream for manufacturers. In 2020, 48% of AM users are using the technology for production.
With faster time-to-market, less rework and scrap, and the customization that Additive Manufacturing provides, why aren’t more manufacturers embracing it?
The Fear of Change in Additive Manufacturing
Perhaps the biggest challenge that manufacturers have to overcome is simply the fear of change in Additive Manufacturing. Whether they are working efficiently or not, the systems that manufacturers have in place now are what everybody is used to. Change is difficult. Many companies choose to keep inefficient and expensive processes in place rather than shake things up.
The fear of change in Additive Manufacturing brings to mind the saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” In other words, it feels like less risk to stick with what you know versus trying something new that you aren’t sure about. The problem with this approach is that you won’t have the benefits that AM offers, which may leave you way behind your competitors.
Challenges to Efficient Additive Manufacturing
Moving into a more robust Additive Manufacturing environment does have challenges beyond the fear factor.
There are knowledge gaps with many of today’s workers. They may be fearful of the changes until they’ve been trained on new technology. Training can take time.
While there is a concern in the AM industry about a lack of common standards, it’s become less of an issue for large-scale manufacturers—as long as they can meet the specs they need. For service-level manufacturers, it may not be a concern at all.
Speed continues to be a limiting factor in scalability. It can be overcome with the right equipment and software to maintain quality. For service-level manufacturers, it’s more about quality than scale.
Human Error and Repeatable Processes
Because many AM jobs are custom pieces, the cost of human error can be high. It leads to more scrap and rework and can lead to delays. Another fear of change in Additive Manufacturing is whether the process to create AM components will be repeatable.
Fortunately, the right MES/QMS software can tightly control specs to create a more efficient end-to-end production process for AM. This reduces error rates and produces a repeatable process at scale.
Overcoming the Fear of Change in Additive Manufacturing
Overcoming the fear of change in Additive Manufacturing starts with your team.
Face the Fear
The best way to get employees to overcome the fear of change in Additive Manufacturing is to address it directly. Explain why it’s necessary to remain competitive, what training will occur, and how the process benefits the company. It takes the buy-in of team members for any new initiative to be successful.
Improve Your Additive Manufacturing Process
One of the most important decisions that you will make is choosing the MES/QMS system that will manage your processes and quality assurance. If you leverage the power of an MES/QMS built for manufacturing, you will have better production and workflow control.
Bluestreak | Bright AM™ is an innovative and extensible real-time MES/QMS Additive Manufacturing software solution that supports the management of industry specs. Unlike traditional ERP/MRP systems, Bluestreak | Bright AM™ is designed exclusively for additive and service-based manufacturing environments. The primary focus is on real-time processing visibility, production control of each operating step, and integrated quality management. Inadequate production software can make realizing the benefits of Additive Manufacturing exceptionally difficult. The right software can create a seamless workflow, including direct connections to a customer’s ERP/MRP system.
Advanced Specifications Manager™ makes managing specifications simple and fast, saving you valuable time and money. Mission-critical information is always available. Planners can tightly manage specifications, develop spec documents, store media, and produce a complete audit trail from the office to the production floor. When changes are made, everything is updated instantly for everyone and automatically cross-references against conflicts.
Eliminate Information Silos
When you bring consistent information to everyone who needs it, you eliminate the information silos that exist in organizations. A central tool manages all aspects of the process and results in better quality across the board.
AM software also allows for automation, which is key to scalability in any production process. Algorithms can optimize volume packing for nesting and part orientation, build organization around a master part’s orientation, and create adjustable packing parameters, such as density and speed. Parts can be arranged by outbox or real contours.
Do Production Scheduling
In today’s manufacturing environment, production processes are highly synchronized. Timelines, changeover, and product handling times have been reduced to minimum levels. The value creation process is tightly timed to each integrated machine in the process. AM adds another layer of complexity.
The right Additive Manufacturing software can overcome this complexity with simple tools to manage the process, including:
- Having flexible scheduling
- Viewing open orders
- Combining like-jobs for processing
- Specifying and certifying equipment for each load
- Prioritizing jobs
- Automatically generating load list
Bright AM | Schedule™ gives planners and supervisors an intuitive tool that makes load planning both easier and more dynamic.
Overcoming the fear of change in Additive Manufacturing will take a commitment from the top of the organization to drive the process forward. The right equipment and the right AM software, such as Bluestreak | Bright AM™, can help manufacturers overcome their fear and enjoy the benefits of AM.
If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!