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Management article
-
Reference no. R1505B
Published by:
Harvard Business Publishing (2015)
Revision date:
15-Jun-2015
 
in "Harvard Business Review"
Length:
10 pages

Abstract

The use of 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has moved well beyond prototyping, rapid tooling, trinkets, and toys. Companies such as GE, Lockheed Martin, and BMW are switching to it for industrial production at scale. More companies will follow as the range of printable materials continues to expand. Already available are basic plastics, photosensitive resins, ceramics, cement, glass, numerous metals, thermoplastic composites (some infused with carbon nanotubes and fibers), and even stem cells. In this article the author makes the case that additive manufacturing will gain ground quickly given advantages including greater flexibility, fewer assembly steps and other cost savings, and enhanced product design possibilities. Managers, he writes, should now be engaging with strategic questions on three levels: (1) Sellers of tangible products should ask how their offerings could be improved, whether by themselves or by competitors. (2) Industrial enterprises should revisit their operations to determine what network of supply chain assets and what mix of old and new processes will be optimal. (3) Leaders must consider the strategic implications as whole commercial ecosystems begin to form around the new realities of 3-D printing. Many of the biggest players already in the business of additive manufacturing are vying to develop the platforms on which other companies will build and connect. Platform owners will be powerful because production itself is likely to become commoditized over time. Those facilitating connections in the digital ecosystem will sit in the middle of a tremendous volume of industrial transactions, collecting and selling valuable information.

Topics

Operations management; Manufacturing strategy; Technological change; Process innovation; Customization
Industry:

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