This week we’d like to highlight leaders in the additive manufacturing (AM) field: not companies or countries but the people who are championing manufacturing using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies. These executives have led important processes in their companies transforming their business either by saving significant amounts or by enabling entirely new lines of business previously not possible. Integrating AM can sometimes be executed with minimum disruption, as in the case of spare parts (2 examples below), yet it requires a leader to confidently lead the company through this adoption. On the other hand, sometimes AM can bring about previously impossible results and thus revolutionize a company’s production and offering – here a strong visionary leader is needed, Michelin’s José Cocovi is a prime example of this case. Either way, the process is fraught with FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. “We know first-hand that the transition from prototyping to volume production is possibly the biggest step on any company’s additive journey and that can be daunting,” said Jason Oliver, President & CEO of GE Additive, in a recent interview. We hope these leaders’ experience can help others with AM adoption for serial production.
Meet the Leaders
This post highlights and commends 5 leaders at 5 different large organizations:
- José Cocovi is Mold Line Manager at Michelin where over 1 million sipes are additively manufactured yearly and inserted into tire molds. Mr. Cocovi is a mechanical engineer by training and managed Michelin’s Corporate Process Engineering for over a decade. He is now also the co-President of the AddUp Board of Administration (AddUp is a Michelin and Fives joint venture).
- Mujo Bogaljevic is VP of Operations at Sonova where additively manufacturing hearing aids has been the norm for years. Mr. Bogaljevic has been with Sonova since 2003.
- Bernd Baldauf, Head of eBusiness & Digital Data Management at Krones, is leading the emergency parts (AM, of course) initiative. Mr. Baldauf has in-depth supply chain experience and previously worked at SAP.
- Andreas Deuschle, Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, led that division’s move to additively manufacturing plastic spare parts for older truck models. Mr. Deuschle has been at Daimler since 2001 and has recently become the CEO of Daimler Kamaz RUS in the Russian Federation.
- Eric Liedtke is Adidas Group executive board member for Global Brands. Mr. Liedtke led Adidas’ Futurecraft 4D sneakers initiative which includes additively manufactured midsoles customized to the wearer. He received the CMO of the year award in 2017 and was named one of the 25 most innovative CMOs in 2018.
This post will highlight insights from their processes including quotes in their own words (and special thanks to those that interviewed especially for this post!).
Disruption and Integration
When we ask about roadblocks for production in AM, we often hear about the problems of disruption across the board and the difficulty for large organizations to adjust. “Large companies have a hard time changing their processes,” says Michelin’s Cocovi. Champions need to overcome these and other roadblocks and have done so successfully. In the case of hearing aids, Sonova’s Bogaljevic said: “We have completely transformed the way custom hearing aids are made.” Integration helps in reducing the amount of disruption and ensuing inefficiency. Bogaljevic explains: “By definition, what we do is mass customization—every ear is different, every hearing loss is different… This is a fully integrated, mass customization environment so we had to tie everything together; if we were passing data off manually, it would be very inefficient.” (below multiple hearing aids are additively manufactured together – images courtesy of Sonova). When the adoption is managed in a thoughtful way, roadblocks can be overcome.
Enabling New Business
Often using Additive Manufacturing in production enables new business. Cocovi mentions that complex AM sipes enabled new lines of tires (e.g., the CrossClimate line) with improved performance and this was one of the main benefits of AM that helped him drive its adoption (along with process simplifications and lead-time reduction). Bernd Baldauf is leading Krones‘ new initiative for emergency spare parts. By offering additively manufactured emergency spare parts Krones can serve its customers better, considerably shortening the time it takes to get a spare part, or rather an emergency spare part until the actual part arrives. This is a premium service that customers are happy to use. “The biggest pain point of a customer is if the machinery stands still” says Baldauf. In general, emergency spare parts are much like some of us have a spare tire in case of a puncture in our car – it holds until we get our tire fixed or replaced. Mercedes-Benz Trucks is similarly able to provide spare parts for older trucks it previously could not support, “We ensure the same functionality, reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness with 3D metal parts as we do with conventionally produced parts” says Deuschle. He further explains: “The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices” (below Mercedes Benz 3D printed metal parts for trucks). Serving customers better and enabling new business for the company are aids for champions in leading AM adoption. It can also increase creativity and future opportunities. Adidas’ Liedtke said of their collaboration with Carbon: “The unparalleled work we’ve done together to make FUTURECRAFT 4D a reality is a proven example of the vital role digital 3D Manufacturing can play in opening up endless opportunities and creativity in the future.” He added “We all want to get to a mass volume opportunity” (above is the FutureCraft 4D sneaker by Adidas and Carbon – image courtesy of Adidas).
Time is Money
Several leaders also mention that when pushing to adopt AM in production, lead-time reduction is a factor, especially when it ties with customer demand. Today’s customers expect support and timely responses to their needs. Deuschle stresses the timeliness of spare parts: “The availability of spare parts during a workshop visit is essential for our customers – no matter how old the truck is, or where it is located.” Baldauf notes that a large bottler might produce 60-80 thousand bottles an hour so each hour seems like a long time to wait.
Learning from the Process
Perhaps the most interesting is the process of adoption described by Michelin’s Cocovi, culminating in cost savings and serial production. Michelin started experimenting with AM in 2006 to find out what 3D printers can do. “We found out that the most mature application in Michelin would be for curing molds and as a first step complex sipes… In 2009 we validated that AM sipes could be used in industrial molds.” In 2010 Michelin bought 20 machines for one of their mold plants to produce sipes for new tire lines. This is already serial production but still, the stability of the sipes’ quality and industrial performance were checked and then the use of AM was further expanded with 12 additional machines for a different mold plant. Ever since Michelin has been “better mastering design and production parameters in order to reduce costs with better productivity and quality at the same time.” Cocovi adds: “Since 2017 we have been producing complete molds (not only sipes) at traditional mold costs – next year AM molds will become cheaper.” Much of the insight gleaned from this process has also been put to use in establishing AddUP and its metal 3D printer (below and up top 3D Printed mold for the Crossclimate Tire – images courtesy of Michelin).
We hope this post gave the current and future AM champions some insights on how to further adoption of AM in production. We’d like to end with one last quote from José Cocovi who was kind enough to provide detailed explanations and responses to our questions but when we asked what his unique argument is for promoting AM in production he gave a short and apt response (including caps): “IT IS OUR FUTURE!!” We’ll just add that the future is here, at least for these visionary leaders and their organizations.