Additive Manufacturing in the Supply Chain

By Steve Banker

ARC Report Abstract

For supply chain practitioners, additive manufacturing offers large potential savings for printing spare parts on demand as needed. This is particularly true for companies with large numbers of slow moving stock keeping units (SKUs). Rather than pay to store inventory that is rarely, if ever, ordered why not just print these parts as needed? But, there are challenges.

Challenges Associated with Printing Spare Parts
The opportunity to use additive manufacturing to print spare parts is be-coming widely recognized. In ARC Advisory Group’s conversations with industry insiders, we have come across many companies that have beta projects and are printing a small number of parts; but no company that is doing this at scale. ARC has identified several challenges associated with scaling additive manufacturing in the supply chain:

  • Old parts are often the slow-moving parts, does the company still have the design specs for these parts?

  • A big company may have tens of thousands of slow moving SKUs. Are they willing to dispose of that inventory and write it off?

  • The performance and lifespan of a printed part will be different than traditional parts. In some cases, it may be better. But the testing process may be lengthy.

  • Can companies ensure that a repeatable, high-quality process will be used to print parts in myriad warehouses around the world?


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Keywords: Additive Manufacturing, 3PL, Supply Chain, ARC Advisory Group.

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