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Design Insights: A Plan on Parts; Supplying the Recovery; One Solution on Employment

April 5, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

A Plan on Parts

Additive manufacturing (AM) continues to grow as a viable way to prototype, test and build complicated products from just about any material. The advancements in the last decade have been profound, and newer applications to build parts for larger systems, or even the systems themselves, continue to grow.

One area sometimes overlooked in this discussion is the potential for your 3D printer to supplement your parts department for repair or placement. Why carry an inventory of spare parts for their eventual use when you can print one on an as-needed basis?

A Machine Design article on this topic discusses when, how and why additive manufacturing might be a better solution for such parts issues. The discussion of this is already under way: As the article notes, “AM is expected to make a significant impact to the maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) market, which predominantly includes players from transportation, heavy machinery and energy sectors. Over the next five years, up to 8% of SKUs will be a better business case for AM than conventional sourcing, according to a technical brief in the Journal of Operations Management.”

Supplying the Recovery

In January 2009, the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly PMI index plummeted to 34.5%. That is more than 30% below the index’s growth level of 50% for manufacturing and reflected the impact the Great Recession had on the sector.

Manufacturing steadying grew out of that chasm and for the next decade the index and the economy continued on a growth pattern. The impact of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 ended that streak when the PMI fell to 41.7% in June 2020.

Again, manufacturing has rebounded. The monthly PMI Index for March was at 64.7%, the highest level in nearly 30 years. Economists and industry leaders who make up the PMI panel said that the only thing holding manufacturing from record growth is employment and supplies. Both were dramatically impacted by the pandemic, and both are constraining even further growth.

Some of the improvement in the supply chain and the employment picture can be driven by federal economic policy, but it also should be an individual initiative to change your operation to find ways to address these constraints.

One Solution on Employment

Manufacturing in the 21st Century does offer the promise of a rewarding, lucrative career path, but the industry also has to overcome its longstanding image problem. In this video chat, Machine Design’s Rehana Begg talks with digital manufacturing entrepreneur Sarah Boisvert, the founder of Fab Lab Hub, about actionable ideas that will steer more people—and women, in particular—toward meaningful and fulfilling careers in manufacturing.

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