9 Ways to Improve Process Planning in Additive Manufacturing

9 Ways to Improve Process Planning in Additive Manufacturing

Bright AM

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The overall goal of process planning in Additive Manufacturing (AM) is to achieve maximum product tracking, including the genealogy manifestation that occurs as collaborations of data collection take place across the production shop floor.

As products move through each production phase, there is an immense amount of data to collect, from both mechanical and human resources. Each action on the floor can be recorded and feedback can be given. However, this data can only be used for traceability and as historical information if it is recorded, stored, and analyzed properly.

How are successful manufacturers achieving improved process planning in AM?

For starters, they are implementing a tool like an MES or a QMS, along with other strategies to obtain greater visibility and communication across all operations. Those using an MES/QMS combo for better process planning have noted other significant benefits as well.

Keep reading to learn nine tips for using an MES, a QMS, or a combination of the two to improve process planning in Additive Manufacturing.

What Does a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Do?

It’s not uncommon for AM order execution priorities to be in operational conflict with the kinetics of the actual manufacturing floor. As such, many order requests can take weeks to reach the floor.

Further delays in final production are commonly caused by internal and external issues, such as machine downtime, a sudden increase in large batch orders, resource management constraints, or a shortage of parts.

With an MES, it becomes possible to avoid these common issues by taking a real-time approach to data gathering, storage, and analysis. When used dynamically, the use of an MES can optimize and even automate effective decision-making, particularly in relation to process planning.

Why Do Companies Put Off MES Adoption?

Unfortunately, MES adoption in AM is often avoided because it requires extensive planning and systematic implementation. Controlling all aspects within the planning and implementation phases can be stressful and overwhelming, causing extended delays in adoption. A lack of information on future demand predictions, along with an unwillingness to update legacy hardware/software, also hinders implementation.

Five Tips for Using an MES to Improve Process Planning

Ultimately, an MES improves process planning when:

  1. It is used to increase visibility across the entire manufacturing operation.
  2. It is used to identify potential points of integration that can increase efficiency.
  3. It is used to optimize resource management options.
  4. It is used to enhance product control efforts.
  5. It is used to obtain real-time access to data provisioning and collection.

What Does a Quality Management System (QMS) Do?

The use of a QMS is paramount to better process planning in AM. This type of system allows manufacturers to create a formal set of practices and protocols that outline defined, specific steps to improve production quality. It’s important to note, however, that an advanced QMS can also reduce expenses through optimal waste management and decrease returns and refunds.

Four Tips for Using a QMS to Improve Process Planning

There are four ways that AM can use a QMS to achieve maximum improvement in process planning:

  1. Improve customer satisfaction by improving the quality of product.
  2. Standardize the Additive Manufacturing process to ensure quality.
  3. Trace and track variables and products off the production line.
  4. Document the yield of each batch and pinpoint patterns.

What Are the Common Obstacles of an MES/QMS Combo?

Manufacturers who are considering leveraging an MES/QMS combo or are in the midst of implementation should be aware of the challenges.

Probably the most common obstacle is that both systems are mostly inaccessible to small and medium manufacturers. A combo implementation is also hampered by the fact that half of MES solutions don’t support the industrial internet of things (IIoT). This not only slows down the implementation process but also makes it difficult to scale the system.

Can an MES/QMS Combo Implementation Help with Process Planning in Additive Manufacturing?

Despite the obstacles, many manufacturers wonder whether the benefits are worth the time, effort, and cost of an MES/QMS combo.

Although implementation can be difficult, the answer to this question is still “yes.” An MES/QMS combo allows for a top-down, enhanced focus on quality. The sharing of data in real time becomes streamlined, making it easier to pinpoint the best and worst suppliers, which translates to better decision-making regarding supply chains.


Manufacturers often note that an increased focus on process planning serves as a form of compensation for fabrication and resource weaknesses. With an MES/QMS combo, process planning can become so enhanced in AM that it becomes possible to automate critical processes. With this automation comes faster production times, happier customers, and the ability to achieve greater business growth.

If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!