Spare parts management is a critical and challenging element for a profitable business operation. The main issues are the uncertainty and volatility of demand, the diversity of items, geographically distributed markets and customer´s high expectations on availability and responsiveness. Consequences are often high levels of inventory, a complex supply chain and high logistics cost.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) is considered as a promising way to optimize spare parts management. It allows reducing high levels of inventory and related cost by printing on-demand in proximity of the customer. Despite the many benefits of using 3D printing to produce spare parts, adoption is still limited partly due to a lack of suitable, i.e. easy-to-handle and cost-efficient, technologies.
One emerging solution that could be particularly promising for the provision of spare parts with AM are mobile, decentralized and modular 3D printing systems. A “factory in a box” allows for a flexible and reliable provision of production capacitates wherever needed.