The Potential Impact of AM on the Economy


Aya Bentur  


In recent years there is a global “Buy Local” trend in many aspects. You can see it at restaurants using only locally grown produce, and various initiatives encouraging local businesses. This trend is more than a consumer preference, it has geopolitical support and implications, especially when extended into the world of industrial production. In this industrial context, Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the production line is especially applicable. We had the pleasure to speak with Julio Consola, a Senior Manager at Accenture Digital, and hear his take on the subject.

Once Upon a Time

Once, everything was local – buying goods from overseas was only possible for the very rich and took a long time – one-click internet buying wasn’t an option of even imagined in science fiction. The Industrial Revolution together with globalization changed the manufacturing landscape along with consumer culture. Since the Industrial Revolution, there is an advantage to scale – the more you produce the lower the price will be – making it more profitable to manufacture in one location and transport the goods across the globe. Most local manufacturing has disappeared since, and not just the small ones. Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington points out that “the number of large U.S. manufacturing facilities has dropped by more than a third since 2000, devastating many communities where factories were the lifeblood of the local economy”, he suggests turning to digital manufacturing as an answer to the local manufacturing crisis. Julio Consola raises the question “can 3D printing help reinvigorate a local economy and what would it mean if this would expand at a global scale?” His understanding of the local manufacturing landscape stems from both professional and personal experience. He told us about his parents: “My parents met in a factory, many other relatives used to be employed as well by different factories but that drastically changed some years ago with the impact of globalization and the delocalization of industry painted a new economic landscape where working (meaning, industrial) class was an endangered species in developed countries. This will probably be reverted by 3D printing in the coming years”, he predicts. This is by no means a nostalgic perspective, it’s a logical perspective when looking at the past and present.

Julio Consola on the 3D Printing Hype Cycle - Accenture Digital

Looking Forward

Julio Consola, who is currently responsible for the Additive Manufacturing initiative at Accenture Digital, has a background in Industrial Electronics Engineering, he worked in different roles and companies, always in the Manufacturing / Production Planning area. He founded and ran his own IT Consultancy firm, specialized in Advanced Planning and Scheduling Systems, for 12 years. For the last several years, he has been leading Accenture’s capabilities and go-to-market support globally in the area of 3D Printing. They found that customers could save 30% of their inventory costs while increasing their equipment uptime 8%. Those are very important numbers (above Julio Consola discussing the 3D Printing Hype Cycle).
Recently Consola has been involved in a project intended to define the 3D printing strategy for a client in South America. The project consisted of identifying specific use cases, equipment and ultimately, selecting and 3D printing parts that could be more efficient when supplying spare parts to customers. “This allowed us to discover complementary needs that were not covered nowadays in the area of Additive Manufacturing: On one hand, the client needed a skilled ecosystem nearby that could execute the possibilities of the technology already today. Even though some partners had already made some progress, most of them were not in the situation to provide this service efficiently. On the other hand, some of these partners had the will to incorporate 3D printing capabilities to extend their portfolio, but without a clear demand forecast, the investment was simply too risky”. Facing this chicken and egg situation, Consola sees opportunities, a need to further all aspects in a parallel process and the results it can bring to all involved. Furthermore, he sees job opportunities: “in a few week’s time, we discovered many roles that were not covered. Up to 30 different people were needed to support this initiative (and this is just for two oil & gas facilities)”.

BCG Infographics Additive Manufacturing Skills Need


Power to the Local

Indeed one of the known challenges of the AM ecosystem is the lack of skilled professionals. Addressing this need will lead to answering a more general need – opening up more local jobs (above infographics by BCG and Manufacture Vision 2030). Consola refers to jobs in the area of “part identification, redesign, simplification of components, customization, post-processing, recycling, etc. all of these job openings stem from a necessity which is not covered now”. According to Consola, companies nowadays understand that it is worth their while, strategically speaking, to create local manufacturing solutions, especially with AM. “For the first time in our history, we have the possibility to create sophisticated products at the point of consumption with a lead time which is a fraction of traditional supply chains, and with much less sophisticated planning processes” he states. Consola continues advocating for local additive manufacturing: “Buying local is not only good for economies in developing countries, but it’s also good for the environment.” Local additive manufacturing can bring benefits to the company, the customers, the local job force, even create a sense of community that is often built around such facilities. Beyond that, there is the additional benefit of sustainability. Manufacturing locally reduces the costs of transportation, also additive manufacturing as a technology wastes less material in the manufacturing process itself. Combined with the right business models, a change to the supply chain can have a sustainable impact as well. When additively manufacturing on-demand the numbers of parts and products produced are in direct correlation to consumption, which allows the company and the environment to avoid warehouses of unused parts that were produced in vain. These benefits can lift the local economy and empower ecologically driven, responsible manufacturing.

Hopefully, in the near future, the new generation of Mr. and Mrs. Consola will meet in a local manufacturing facility. It might look different and function differently, but it will have an impact on the local economy, workforce, and community (up top a sketch of how the future manufacturing facility might look like according to NextGenAM).

What are your thoughts on the role of the AM in the local economy? Tell us about it in the comments below or email us. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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