Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) and ERP
Many packaging materials or parts used in the manufacturing industry are created by starting with larger pieces of needed raw materials, which were then cut, carved, or reshaped to create something new and useable. In this process, the basic premise of creation is in taking away from existing materials to transform them.
Additive manufacturing, however, is the process of creating tangible objects by building them layer by layer with the aid of 3D printing. Using a digital model designed in a computer program, objects can be created from metal, plastics, and other raw materials.
To print 3D objects, a company needs the right equipment and software integrated into their systems. 3D printed objects can be made from imaging and models in a computer program or can even be created from scanned drawings as well. To support additive manufacturing, a company will not only need the 3D printer, but also the necessary integrations to make it functional for creating the products or objects needed.
Additive manufacturing gives a nod to the prototyping process that has been in place in many industries for decades, but the advent of 3D printing has introduced a new method of creating models, parts, and objects that has been used successfully for the past few years in the aerospace, military and defense, and food and drug industries.
3D printing capabilities are ushering in a new wave of operational innovation and product creation, which will undoubtedly have a big impact on manufacturers and supply chains around the world as additive manufacturing gains momentum across more industries in the coming years.
Not all materials are perfectly suited to 3D printing, and there is added complexity in obtaining raw materials and planning for creation of new products or parts with additive manufacturing. Whether a company is creating parts and products through additive manufacturing processes or obtaining 3D printed materials from another company as part of their packaging or machine functions, ERP functionality will be a vital part of the process.
The Interplay Between ERP and Additive Manufacturing
ERP solutions are rooted in the manufacturing industry and are heavily embraced as a vital part of planning, tracking, and analyzing the movement of goods throughout the supply chain.
Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are going to reshape how companies use their ERP systems. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways that ERP systems and functionality will be impacted as more companies consider additive manufacturing in their supply chain and logistics operations.
Material Data, Creation, and Procurement Planning
Manufacturing and distribution companies typically already have an ERP solution in place to manage supplies, procurement, inventory, shipments, and other key aspects of moving products and materials around the globe. ERP systems also support elaborate data analysis to constantly improve operations and keep the supply chain efficient and streamlined.
An ERP solution can track all the intricate details of additive manufacturing, from raw material procurement and pricing to management of inventory (printers and materials) to licensing deals needed for designs and relationships with suppliers. ERP systems will likely evolve to contain specific modules for 3D printing materials and product creation as the process becomes more popular across different types of supply chains and industries.
Product Management and Conservation (Time and Raw Materials)
Digital data integrity and integration is essential for additive manufacturing. 3D printed objects are created from a digital image or a specially scanned drawing made to scale. In addition to managing material inventory and supplier relations necessary for additive manufacturing, ERP software is also very effective for managing costs and procurement of materials.
AI-powered ERP systems can help maintain efficiencies throughout the additive manufacturing process by examining patterns and trends emerging in the 3D printing operations. The system can help make predictions for future materials needed (based on use and consumption) and help pinpoint any inefficiencies that need attention in your processes through advanced analytics, data visualizations, and modeling. This will help keep raw material waste to a minimum and also save time and energy in the supply chain as well.
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