Additive manufacturing: why manufacturers are not (yet) seduced
In industry 4.0, additive manufacturing is one of those innovations that you cannot let slip through the net if you want to keep pace with your rivals and maintain your competitive advantage.
Having said that, many manufacturers in every sector of industry have yet to be won over by this technology. Even though the technology has been around for several decades, the level of uptake and the degree of customer maturity varies tremendously according to the field of application.
1. Lack of knowledge about the innovation
The first reason why manufacturers have yet to succumb to the promises of additive manufacturing is a lack of knowledge about the innovation.
Many manufacturers have been using tried-and-tested design and production processes for many years. Therefore, they are not necessarily interested in changing their work practices if their methods are already allowing them to grow their business.
It is important for additive manufacturing professionals to reach out to their target markets and clue them into this innovation.
Manufacturers who are struggling to modernize their business processes are likely to have trouble keeping up with their competitors who have made a point of staying on the cutting edge of technology.
2. Lack of training on the technology
The second reason that may explain why manufacturers have yet to be won over is the lack of training for their teams.
Since 3D printing is a recent development, the technology might not have been on the syllabus when manufacturers’ engineers were studying at university. As such, they are not familiar with this innovative process, meaning that adoption is an uphill struggle when nobody in the company knows how to use it.
Without any training, manufacturers will find it even harder to identify the advantages and values that this technology can bring to their company.
Once again, additive manufacturing professionals need to educate and reassure if they want to see their prospects engage with the technology.
3. A complete overhaul of the entire manufacturing process
We cannot over-emphasize the fact that additive manufacturing shakes up the entire design and production process for a given part, but that is not all. It also affects all the departments, including sales, marketing and research & development.
Incorporating additive manufacturing into an industry constitutes a real corporate project. Believe it or not, such a radical change may seem scary. Manufacturers may be reluctant to overhaul all their existing processes and lay on training for a number of departments at the same time without any certainty about the gains that they stand to make in the long term.
After all, why fix the processes it they aren’t broken?
Although 3D printing was not invented yesterday, it has only recently been incorporated into the manufacturing industry, and the lack of hindsight associated with implementing the technology may represent an obstacle preventing manufacturers from embracing the technology.
As additive manufacturing professionals, it might be a good idea to use happy customers as ambassadors who could help convince leads through customer testimonials and case studies.
Therefore, the adoption and integration of these new technologies will clearly vary according to the sector, with a number of factors that need to be taken into account, such as the manufacturing cost per product, the speed of production needed for mass adoption and the level of customization required.
Many manufacturers have yet to be won over by the technology due to the lack of information, training and the “fear” of change.
Marketing professionals in the additive manufacturing sector will have their work cut out! When dealing with an immature target market, the keywords are train, educate and convince. If they can see examples of success stories, I’m sure that many of them will switch their companies over to industry 4.0!