Valuable resources must be optimised at the enterprise-level in charge of new prototypes to make workload predictable and stable while providing a mechanism to continually evaluate and assess risk to the operating force.
Navy is as dependent on industry capabilities and capacity to produce viable prototypes. We know from hard experience that workload to capacity mismatch creates delays in prototype completion, increasing costs and reducing time for training and operations. As we look to the future, we see the potential for these conditions to exist.
Advance Construction has benefit of enabling early prototype exercises of build contractor and supplier manufacturing and materiel ordering, thereby strengthening select areas of the supplier industrial base.
Prototype programmes must initiate procurement of numerous long lead time components in support of manufacturing and assembly plan. These component orders will not only de-risk the build schedule but will also allow critical suppliers to begin their increase in materiel ordering and manufacturing capacity earlier than otherwise would be possible.
Capability and capacity of key vendors to provide quality material on-time is crucial for meeting Navy Fleet enterprise construction goals. The industrial base can support prototype challenge with improvements at the prime builders and suppliers in the areas of workload stability, facilities, and recruitment and retention of skilled resources.
The Navy and construction contractors have jointly established action plans with each of the critical suppliers in need of improvement. In many cases, those plans require that the Job Sites invest in new prototype facilities and increase the expertise of the workforce. The Navy will work closely with the builders and suppliers to reduce risk.
I. Prototype Job shops aren’t what they used to be.
Manufacturing was once a simple business: Training in machining and metalworking—sometimes on the same equipment they learned on years earlier. Though this process may have been complicated by technological advancements, if you needed help or advice it was likely sitting across from you at the mess hall table.
There is no doubt that the pace of change is accelerating. If you’re having a hard time believing such a claim, just take a moment to reflect on how often you got a new phone over the last few decades. This makes it much more difficult to maintain the old model of passing down knowledge from one generation to the next. Compounding this difficulty is the fact that the manufacturing sector itself is changing, with many companies switching to a small-batch, on-demand prototype model.
“It’s no longer enough for you, as a manufacturing company, to get one large order for millions of parts and run that order for the next couple of months. “With on-demand prototype manufacturing, you need to be able to take on hundreds or thousands of different orders.
You need to be flexible, but you also need streamlined processes for your customers to place their orders, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed and lose your margin. how can you leverage it to meet the changing requirements of DoD?
II. On-Demand Prototype Manufacturing Explained
As with the on-demand prototype services we know generally, on-demand prototype manufacturing is all about getting exactly what you need, right when you need it. This model requires a fundamental shift in the way we think of the industry as a whole.
“An on-demand prototype production network is one where parts get manufactured as needed and in small quantities, “so it’s not like the mass production that we have today, which tends to have long planning cycles. With an on-demand prototype network, a client could order even just one part, but still get exactly that from the supplier right away.”
Smaller production volumes are a consequence of an as-needed approach, but there’s another factor that’s driving this trend toward on-demand prototype manufacturing.
Custom Prototypes is the watchword of the 21st Century, and custom goods—by definition—cannot be mass produced.
“In the end, “if you want mass customs, you can only do that at a very basic level without on-demand prototype production. You can offer your customers a few different setups for a car, for example, and call that ‘custom’ but it’s not true custom in the sense of making an impact on the performance. If my options are between choosing a blue or a black car, that’s not really custom.”
Between these trends of on-demand prototype manufacturing, one technology in particular stands out: 3D printing. “With 3D printing, you get the custom for free. As long as you can print the object, it doesn’t matter how complex it is or how different it is from your next print. If you want to use traditional manufacturing methods, then you have to change your tooling and systems between jobs.
So, in that case your costs go up a lot, but with 3D printing they stay pretty flat.”
To sum up: producing custom goods requires producing at lower volumes, which is where additive and on-demand manufacturing excel, but this also presents a problem. The challenge is producing custom goods at low volumes efficiently without making your production costs explode.”
III. Advantages of On-Demand Prototype Manufacturing
Accessing on-demand prototype production networks offer the solution to the challenge.
“You need access to machine capacities to deal with hundreds or thousands of orders. “Ideally, you’ll be able to serve a wide variety of clients, which means having many different materials available and lots of different production types. Of course, there are lot sizes of one, but on-demand prototype can also involve lot sizes in the hundreds or thousands.
In those cases, you want to be flexible enough to be able to outsource the production to partners in your on-demand prototype network. So, you can still accept the order from your client, but it doesn’t depend on just the resources you have available, since you can use your network to absorb the extra capacity demand.”
This goes back to the trend for manufacturing to become less centralised and more distributed: the production capacity of any one job shop is less important than that of the entire network, just like the Internet. Beyond increasing your production capacity, being part of an on-demand prototype network also opens up the types of production capabilities you can offer.
“If you want to use additive manufacturing to make high-quality parts, then you don’t want to use one machine with multiple materials. “Of course, each industrial-quality machine is quite expensive, so if you want to be able to offer a wide variety of materials, you’re better off working with a couple of partners and reselling their capacity than buying the machines yourself.”
IV. Roadblocks to On-Demand Prototype Manufacturing
Between increasing your production capacity and enabling access to additional 3D printing processes that you wouldn’t otherwise have, the benefits of on-demand prototype manufacturing are clear. So, why isn’t everyone adopting this new model?
Well, for one thing, setting up an on-demand prototype network all by yourself—or even with a few partners—is difficult. However, by using platforms, the task becomes considerably simpler.
“We can quickly establish an on-demand prototype network from scratch since we already have a large supplier network. So if you’re a new company and you want to participate, you can step into that already existing network. If you already have some partners, we’re happy to integrate them as well, and continue to extend the network that way. In both cases, we’re using our growing user-base to build and strengthen these networks.”
We offer platforms to help manufacturers join on-demand prototype networks and access to suppliers. Our application solution allows print shops to join an on-demand prototype network, adding their capacities to it and enabling them to selling those capacities via their own networked shop.
“We basically connect the different network shops in the background to establish the networks. Our Enterprise solution gives users access to the on-demand prototype suppliers— as well as the ability to compare their internal capacities with those of the companies on the network.
Once you have your network in place, you‘re ready to consider our challenge in depth. The transition from producing many parts from a few orders to producing a few parts from many orders isn’t easy, especially when it comes to quoting.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest roadblocks right now. “Even if you’re fast, it usually takes significant block of time to prepare a quotation for an order. There’s also a lot of ‘communication “ping-pong” at the beginning: someone sends a request, you check if the part is printable, it’s not, so you request changes back and forth, and it just goes on like that.”
Fortunately, you can avoid all that communication “ping-pong” by automating your quotations and printability checks. Our Enterprise Platform is designed to do just that. In addition to giving you direct access to our network of additive manufacturing suppliers, the platform can also evaluate models for pricing and printability, include side-by-side comparisons of internal 3D printers with those in your on-demand prototypes network.
Given the extent to which 3D printing plays a role in on-demand prototype manufacturing, determining which parts would benefit from being additive manufactured is crucial to running a successful on-demand prototype job shop. For this reason, a lack of experience or knowledge of 3D printing can be another major stumbling block.
However, with our platform, that knowledge and experience doesn’t have to come from in house.
“We have customers who have a lot of experience with 3D printing and know exactly what they want, but we also have customers who come to us and basically say, ‘Hey, we heard about 3D printing and we don’t want to miss out on it. What should we do?’ These are the guys who rely on our supplier network and who may not even have a single printer in their facility.
V. On-Demand Prototypes & The Future of Manufacturing
Whether you’re a production supplier or huge organisation like DoD, keeping up with the pace of change is key to staying competitive. Disruptive new technologies are emerging and constantly changing within the lifetime of a single prototype generation, making it impossible to rely solely on the knowledge and the experience of our predecessors. But our platforms are now providing the tools to begin on-demand prototype manufacturing without large upfront investments.
1. Prototyping effort benefits were worth the cost, provided a positive return on business case investment include customer needs are valid and can best be met with advancement of chosen concept to be produced with existing resources, such as time, money, and available technology.
2. Prototyping provided programmes with information on technology maturity, feasibility of the design concepts, potential costs, and on achievement of planned performance requirements assist in injecting realism into business cases.
3. Prototyping demonstrated key technologies or proposed design solutions to determine if riskier, cutting edge design was feasible. Without prototyping, programmes would not have had sufficient information to be confident in riskier option-- contractor would not have proposed it without opportunity to provide functional demo.
4. Prototyping informed programmes understanding of prices to validate business case cost estimates. During prototyping process, contractors select vendors, ensure productive communications with suppliers, purchase materiel, and build full system version or parts of the system to provide information on potential costs.
5. Prototyping increased cost information available to programmes leading to cost reductions and competitive prototyping incentivised contractors to determine cost drivers in order to be more competitive in next phase.
6. Prototyping made programmes better understand requirements to make performance trade-offs meeting cost targets.for example to determine if different versions of system were best suited to meet unique requirements.
7. Prototyping provided programmes means to improve system performance, for example, collect information support operational success during prototype testing set stage to improve target classification and identify potential reliability issues early in process.
8. Prototyping changed perception of subsystem materiel utility based on information about wear/tear during prototype testing-- prototypes served as test assets during system project milestones or used to continue demo efforts.
9. Prototyping approaches to competition generated additional benefits to enable more favourable business terms using competition to result in service life cost savings and reduce operation/support expenditures over life of programmes.
10. Prototyping with competition reduced likelihood that contractors would team up in the next phase so prospect of only one proposal is diminished. In other cases, competition improved quality of systems contractors to introduce/continue cutting edge designs to remain competitive in next phase of programmes using existing capital for prototyping efforts