Supply chain disruptions due to the spread of COVID-19 are forcing businesses and manufacturing companies to step back and take a hard look at the resilience of their supply chain networks. There are countless reports in the news and media about weaknesses in lean manufacturing, the importance of digital technology in the wake of this pandemic, and the need to establish manufacturing frameworks that allow operations to continue running even in the face of a global economy. At a time when governments and businesses are facing unprecedented financial pressures, it is critical to do everything possible to keep the economy running. Businesses can no longer put off their digital strategy. Plans to roll out smart factories over the next few years must be fast-forwarded to provide economic stability.
Businesses that are familiar with injection molding know that it takes weeks or months to design moulds, produce tooling, and manufacture each part needed in the system. Once made, moulds are inflexible. They can make one part and one part only. Moulds can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars so companies must print high volumes of the one single part to pay off this investment. As a result, inventory commitments are made months or years in advance, making it difficult to respond to changes in the market. Once manufactured, physical inventory must be stored somewhere, incurring more costs.
On-Demand Inventory and Shorter Product Cycles
At 3DQue, we were able to switch production priorities from Wongboxes, key-cap storage boxes for hobbyists, to printing Face Shield Frames for frontline workers overnight. The design and testing portion of the production was carried out in only a few hours, making the transition seamless. Depending on increasing or decreasing demand for Face Shields through this pressing time, we are able to allocate printers to printing multiple products and parts at the same time.
3D printers can make any part at any time. Its flexibility makes 3D printing highly adaptable, switching from production of equipment valves one minute to life-saving personal protection equipment (“PPE”) such as face shields and swabs the next. In smart manufacturing, “inventory” is stored on computers in print files and available to be printed at the touch of a button. 3DQue’s technology can handle thousands of parts, coordinating production across hundreds of printers allowing businesses to print as many or as few parts as they need whenever they need it. This on-demand capability allows companies to instantly redeploy production to meet urgent needs such as emergency supplies.
Replacing traditional supply chains with digital networks of 3D printers builds resilience, making businesses more responsive, quickly able to reconfigure production to meet rapid changes in demand. With 3DQue’s manufacturing technology, businesses can make strategic changes now and save themselves from major economic losses.