AM for CXOs – The CIO Perspective


Aya Bentur  

3D Printed Metal Gears - Sculpteo

Additive manufacturing (AM) is at its best when it impacts the entire supply chain. Such an impact has the potential to interrupt existing operations, disrupting policies and procedures that are in place and have been working well. Introducing modifications to a working system is always challenging and raises concerns at the CXO level. This week we explore CXO concerns regarding IT (Information Technology), specifically addressing challenges raised by AM integration from the perspective of the CIO or CISO. Here we go.

The Origin of Fear

There are stories of companies that introduced a new system which caused their entire operation to crash – Nike suffered a loss of more than $100 million in sales in 2000 due to a new system integrated and Revlon has investors filing suit after the launch of a new system last year which severely disrupted the company’s operations. So it’s no wonder that any change to the existing working system is a fear that concerns CXOs on all levels, from the CIO, CISO, CFO, COO, to the CEO. Why are these horror stories relevant to AM? Companies don’t want to change their policies and procedures, they want to apply their existing policies and procedures to new manufacturing and inventory methods like additive manufacturing. If AM brings the risk of disrupting policies and procedures it raises fears of disruption and business interruption. So even though CXOs’ are aware that AM for industrial production can benefit business-wise they might be reluctant to start the change unless their fears are mitigated.

Keeping Safe

Safeguarding the system is done through policies and procedures set and developed by the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or CISO (Chief Information Security Officer). Each company has their set of IT procedures, these could be hundreds of pages of documents which have been thoroughly thought through and specified to fit the certain company’s operations and security strategy. The procedures relate to information security, data management issues such as where the information is stored, who has what permissions, backups, audit trails and so on. These procedures have been working in the company for a long time and IT has vetted them, they would like to continue and use them.

Adapting to AM

AM includes changes in existing operations that might affect IT. Take inventory, for example. While physical inventory doesn’t fall under IT, additively manufacturable virtual inventory does – every file holds IP and critical information. Which means policies and procedures need to be applied, preferably with minimum changes. Files that hold manufacturing data existed before AM – digital files of molds and technical drawings, for example, are not a new thing. Virtual inventory is just another kind of manufacturing data with sensitive information. While digital inventory files are used to 3D print items, so their use is different, handling these files in terms of their storage, communication, and backup should be the same as for any other file. They should fall under the same policies and procedures to the largest extent possible. Otherwise, the fears of CIOs when integrating AM, similar at the end of the day to any new integration, are warranted. These concerns will likely slow down the adoption process to make sure no disasters, such as the New York Stock Exchange freeze in 2015, happen. CIOs would like to keep all policies and procedures in place and AM ecosystem companies need to take this into consideration.

Catalysis - 3D Printed Metal Mold for Injection Molding

3D Printed Metal Mold for Injection Molding – Catalysis

AM IT Challenges

If AM files are stolen they can be manufactured and sold, damaging the company’s sales, and – if the perpetrator manufactures them incorrectly – damaging the company’s reputation as well. Beyond that, if someone changes a digital manufacturing file, with the intention to cause harm or by accident, this could lead to manufacturing a faulty part. Specifically, in AM, a small unnoticeable change can cause real damage to a critical part and the company will be held accountable. For example, the wrong settings applied to a production batch can lead to malfunctioning parts in the specific production period. In addition, AM files for production are used multiple times and across long periods of time. Even if the manufacturing process is done in-house, it’s easier to maintain consistency and security procedures when the ability to make changes to the file is limited or the number of people with permission to change the file is limited.

structural optimized differential housing, jointly developed by GKN Powder Metallurgy and Porsche Engineering

Differential housing developed by GKN Powder Metallurgy and Porsche Engineering

Remote Control

In addition to extensive repeated use, AM files raise another challenge as many companies rely on outsourcing for additively manufacturing certain parts and products. When outsourcing the production of an AM file, even more than in regular outsourcing, the company must trust procedures that are not it’s own, allowing the sensitive files out of their control. Something we heard quite a lot from CIO’s is that when such files are passed to a service provider for production they want to have some control over the file, for example, to remotely de-activate the file when needed.

Do Not Disturb

Even though AM has additional needs (ensuring consistency etc) that are probably not part of other IT guidelines, these needs should be handled as an add-on. Other than these needs, CXOs would much rather apply existing procedures instead of modifying them which might disrupt or overcomplicate operations. So, wherever possible, AM players should do their best to adapt to the existing and not disrupt. So long as we adhere to that, we address CXO concerns and AM enhances the business side without derailing IT policies and procedures – a winning combination!

* Image up top: 3D Printed Metal Gears – Sculpteo

What are your top management concerns? Follow our #AM4CXO series, if you have a top management issue you would like us to include just write us in the comments below. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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