Based on the evenly spread values, the whole manufacturing process still needs a good degree of automation.
When we talk about "design for manufacturing", we mean optimizing the product design to match the product's function and market demand using the most cost-efficient manufacturing methods and materials available. This also means the most feasible use of labor and material in the process of fabrication.
There is an old rule that is proven right time and again: the decisions made at the beginning of any process have the ultimate impact on its outcome, cost and product development process. The importance of first decisions lies in the magnitude of 70%. When we talk about on-demand manufacturing, such decisions add even more to the project outcomes, just because the supply chain is that much shorter. People that affect the first 20% of the product development budget lay the foundations that influence the rest of the product's life cycle and all its financial parameters.
Nowadays, manufacturers have a huge range of software products at their disposal, from lightweight 2D design solutions (like freely available CAD tools) to heavyweight CAD systems costing tens of thousands of dollars per user, which allow designing and implementing the full cycle of development for a product of any complexity.
Simulation software, which is an indispensable part of 3D printing, is a great example of how automation software can facilitate the pre-production stage
. Using such tools, engineers can easily visualize complex geometries of future product parts and predict potential deformities during the printing process. This greatly reduces the cost and length of the trial-and-error phase, which was the huge cost factor previously.
The overarching objective of automation for any manufacturer is to obtain as much long-term value from the process, as possible. This, in its turn, depends mostly on how far along the journey to automation maturity the particular company has progressed. This progress can be impeded by the initial investment costs, which can be quite significant for startups or small-to-medium enterprises — and the installed systems are quite costly to maintain.
Various production and operational processes
can be suitable candidates for automation, in case they meet the following criteria:
- are time-consuming,
- highly depend on employee attention and qualification to succeed,
- are impacted by fluctuations in transactional demand.
Such processes can — and should — be automated using various tools:
- Business process management (BPM),
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM),
- Robotic process automation (RPA), etc.
Such systems capture data, run applications, trigger responses and communicate with other systems to perform a variety of tasks.
One of the least automated production stages is the post-processing
, and 25% of surveyed executives state the need to remove this bottleneck in order to scale their on-demand manufacturing processes.