Additive Manufacturing (AM) is not only disrupting traditional production because of materials and methods, but the customer relationship with AM is also an area ripe for change.
Real-time communication helps customers build relationships with manufacturers and have more control over the final versions of orders. Let’s explore how Additive Manufacturers can take advantage of real-time updates for AM customers to deliver value and reduce cost and waste.
The Challenges of Real Time in Manufacturing
There’s a good reason your customers are hinting that they want updates for their orders. Customers expect mass customization but there are challenges:
- Production is designed for large numbers: tens of thousands. Shifting to just a handful requires new processes.
- Automation for mass production keeps manufacturing under a tight margin. Processing just a few in the same amount of time is a big challenge.
- Design, production, and distribution are merging into one agile pathway. This shift requires a change in company culture.
However, Additive Manufacturing is the perfect industry for this kind of mass customization. AM can bring these innovative concepts to consumers, but customers want more control and more connection to the overall process itself.
The Value of Real-Time Updates
One way to deliver control and communication is by shifting to real-time updating, which could be a massive differentiator for Additive Manufacturers looking to secure a larger portion of this growing market.
- It builds customer relationships. Your customers want transparency. With less tolerance for mysterious delays, real-time updates offer a vital relationship-building perk.
- It makes customers more visible. This is good for two reasons. First, it produces valuable data through documented interactions. Second, it helps keep companies focused on value, an important part of the iterative process.
- It improves customer confidence. AM is still new. Capturing new customer leads and improving conversion rates requires a boost in customer confidence that AM companies will indeed deliver. Real-time updates produce transparency and could help customers be willing to buy.
These updates will set your organization apart from the noise and allow you to provide the crucial differentiating factor designed to win customers over from your competition.
Real-Time Updates for AM Customers, Step by Step
It may seem daunting, but real-time updates for AM customers are not only possible in Additive Manufacturing, but they’re also a logical next step for your organization. Here’s how to do it correctly.
Step 1. Deploy a universal source of truth in communication and documentation.
You cannot hope to offer updates, much less any source of real-time insight, without a single source of truth. This is a critical factor for companies that can take control of data and put it to use. With a universal truth source, all your information is where it needs to be for accurate updates in real time. This includes your communication system.
Step 2. Implement robust process control with automation to support the entire value chain, from the work order to the delivery.
This isn’t your grandfather’s process control. Automation is key to supporting the entire value chain. Automated process control allows customers to initiate an order and follow it through each stage in manufacturing, while you walk alongside, ensuring top quality with less waste.
Step 3. Automate tracking and documentation to reduce data gaps and human error, making it easy to send status updates to customers who are waiting for them.
Humans are your biggest source of value, but they can also be your most significant liability. Data gaps from incomplete recordkeeping or inconsistent data from department to department can cause serious issues in your process and outright errors even more so. Automatic tracking and documentation reduce these errors to the absolute minimum.
Step 4. Compress the iteration cycle with automated specifications.
You should also be automating specifications. This helps compress your iteration cycles, allowing you to speed up notifications and reduce waste. As you improve on each iteration, your customer reaps the benefit because automation and real-time concepts are built into the production cycle.
Step 5. Maintain quality control with software designed for the unique challenges of AM.
Mass manufacturing software won’t work here because AM doesn’t offer mass production. Quality control specifications must be customizable to a smaller production level, account for recycled materials from prototyping, and understand the unique nature of the AM materials themselves. With AM-specific software, you and your customers will have a more accurate view of each pipeline stage, as well as the status of the finished product.
Building Robust Real-Time Updates for AM Customers
Improving overall communication allows Additive Manufacturers to update customers in real time. This reduces waste and cost, allowing customers to customize and request changes through a secure system with no information gaps. Combining Agile methodologies with robust software solutions designed specifically for the unique world of AM, such as Bluestreak | Bright AM’s full suite of products, can help bring real-time updates to AM customers worldwide.
Bluestreak | Bright AM is designed exclusively for the Additive Manufacturing industry. Our best-of-class MES and QMS solutions bring quality control management to new levels. Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM today for a free demo!