An efficient supply chain is of crucial importance for the success of many companies: it shortens lead times, lowers costs and ultimately increases sales. But what is easily overlooked?
In this day and age when companies strive to stay competitive, efficiency is a key factor and the supply chain is coming under increasing pressure. Companies employ supply chain specialists – and if their improvements affect the bottom line, then, much to the delight of shareholders, their company achieves better financial results.
Many companies have set up an emergency system for the ongoing supply of important parts so that they can continue to work normally even if the status quo is disrupted by human rights, conflicts, political, financial or biological factors. This was confirmed during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, when some companies were able to continue production continuously, while others came to a standstill quite quickly because an important part of their plans – their technical supply chain – was not given sufficient consideration. We all know the value of closing projects in the millions, but many have overlooked the fact that a $ 10 replacement part can easily bring a plant to a standstill.
Risk management in the technical supply chain is vital! In many cases during the pandemic it was not the simple “parts delivery” that was the problem, but the spare parts. After months or maybe years of fine-tuning the relationships and processes within their supply chain, the experts failed to realize that they were completely relying on the suppliers of technical parts. While it’s great to have enough components to assemble your products, what if you are let down by the fixture supplier or the automation specialist can’t deliver the custom grippers because they’re locked down?
A modern company today has to take control of its technical supply chain. Dependency on contractors for mission critical technical parts should indeed be taken very seriously. A production line that comes to a standstill in anticipation of a spare part can just as easily be without assembly parts – a standstill is a standstill! The lessons we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic show us that it would make sense to employ a team of supply chain specialists who can also focus on the technical supply chain. Alternatively, there is another option, which is to regain control of outsourced engineering and bring it back in.
Additive manufacturing as an opportunity
It’s now possible that design departments can create robust, lightweight components in a fraction of the time it would take to outsource them. No special manufacturing skills are required and there is no need for large, power-sucking machine tools. An entry-level 3D printer costs less than the price of a van and runs on a 3-pin 240V plug! There are also a number of easy-to-use metal 3D printers that also cost less than your average CNC machine tool.
These printers offer an ever-expanding range of materials and regular advances in functionality. The technology is now both affordable and usable, so it should be considered a “must-have” by supply chain specialists – some pioneers have already recognized this.
With the further progress of the materials, the traditional manufacturing techniques for small quantities will no longer be competitive. Any company that is serious about an uninterrupted supply chain should produce critical parts in-house. Organizations can now easily move from a “we outsource” model to a self-service (or hybrid) model and regain control.