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Additive Manufacturing Deserves its Own Metrics of Success — Here’s Why

The manufacturing industry changed when additive manufacturing entered the playing field just a few decades ago. Now, the sky’s the limit when crafting the pieces and parts that can drive a plant forward into better productivity and profitability.

However, as an economic sector, we still judge the value of additive manufacturing by its ROI. Return on investment is a metric that does not, and should not, apply to this area. We need a new way to evaluate the success of additive manufacturing that keeps up with the ever-changing industrial landscape and accurately reflects input vs. output.

Why ROI Matters

For nearly as long as machines have been in factories, ROI has been the standard measurement of success for everything on the shop floor. And that’s not a bad thing – in a factory or warehouse, it’s simple to gauge the ROI on many new pieces of equipment or software. You can discover how many items they produce or how much they speed up production in an average workday and easily calculate the cost benefit.

ROI is an imperative statistic to consider for many machines you already have. After all, if you spend a significant portion of your budget on a new robot specifically to help put out more products faster, you’ll want a hard and fast number to confirm whether or not it is living up to your expectations. Did its output justify its cost? ROI has the answer, and that’s why it’s the most looked-at metric in the industry. 

Another thing keeping ROI at the top of analyst charts is its successful history as a scale of an investment’s output. Companies large and small already rely on ROI to make important decisions on process improvements. Because of this, many ascribe to the proverbial phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A statistic that has benefited a company countless times is unlikely to be modified or replaced on a whim, and that’s understandable. But ROI isn’t the be-all, end-all of a good cost-benefit analysis. 

Finding Something New

It can be tempting to continue using ROI as a quantitative metric for your additive manufacturing processes. However, it’s more difficult to define additive manufacturing based on the simple numbers ROI relies on, so a more nuanced approach is necessary. 

Additive manufacturing doesn’t function the same way as the other machines on the floor. These additive manufacturing devices are more than the simple molding presses or one-trick ponies typical of other machine tools. 

When you consider bringing additive manufacturing into your factory or warehouse, you’re likely not planning on using it to get production going for the first time. Additive manufacturing is about amplifying the processes you already use and making them work even better. The pieces you craft and the new parts you implement make your entire operation smoother. However, these game changers in your day-to-day processes may not show up in normal ROI. Hence, the industry needs a new way of looking at the gains they make from additive manufacturing. 

Some big names are already well aware of the changes coming to the manufacturing industry. These companies have shifted some of their operational focus to incorporate the many strengths of additive manufacturing. Ford has already begun developing automation in additive manufacturing, which helps reduce overhead costs and rapidly increases efficiency. At GKN, additive manufacturing is showing up in production that needs a significantly shorter lead time than ever before.

The “big dogs” are bringing in these new kinds of manufacturing. However, as in the examples we provide, you may notice that the additive machines that they are focused on often assist in process improvement, as opposed to directly increasing production. In this way, top corporations are beginning to favor additive equipment that can’t necessarily factor ROI directly into its designation as a useful enhancement to their overall work. Seeing the benefits requires looking at the broader picture. 

Make Your Own Solutions

Additive manufacturing is capable of delivering the creative solution your company needs. It’s the next step in creating industrial environments that can meet the needs of workers and consumers at top speed. It’s a big part of the Industry 4.0 shift, and it’s why Bru Tek has invested in flagship Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) equipment from Farsoon – one of only two machines in Michigan! We’re passionate about bringing the full power of additive manufacturing, and the expanded Design Space it opens up, to your business. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you to identify opportunities within your process or your end-use parts that were previously out of reach.