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3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacture (AM), also referred to as 3D printing, provides exciting new options for business together with other established methods. These days, materials are being processed using nearly the same methods used at the time when mass production originally began. By starting with a simple block of material, (metal, wood or plastic) one would begin by taking away pieces- milling, drilling and grinding as necessary. However, additive manufacturing provides a new technique to making articles wherein material is added to a part, layer by layer. Shape and geometry freedom are vast compared to other production methods, thus making it easy to create even especially complex parts using 3D printer technology.
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Image 1 - "3D printing technologies are described in terms of providing "complexity for free".

3D printers are controlled by computers and items are designed by CAD programs, since all machines depend on input from an STL file. Yet, the key to how AM works is that parts are made by adding various layers, with each layer being a thin cross-section of the part derived from the original CAD data. Instructions for additive manufacturing are easy to send as files anywhere around the world. These files eliminate the need for transporting articles and make it fast to customize a part for individual printing at a low price.

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Image 2 - "ASTM International F42 committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies: "Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies.”


AM is not a specific technology; it’s an umbrella term for several technologies using variable methods. Industrial uses for AM are include car and aircraft parts, complicated metal parts, casting mods and prototyping. Vat photo-polymerization is one of the most commonly used methods in the industry whereby a liquid polymer is solidified by laser. Resolution is optimum when using this method, as researchers can make items with features as small as 1 µm for an object. Powder bed fusion is the most versatile technology, allowing the processing of many materials like polymers, metals, ceramics and composites. It was originally developed for producing plastic, using a point-wise laser scanning technique. Currently, metal sintering is used as plastic granulates laser scanning in powder bed fusion machines. Home printers use plastic extrusion, making it the most familiar of the various techniques. Industry uses this for prototyping and for creating some parts, however, resolution is never very high through the use of extrusion.

The future promises great opportunities for 3D printing as it takes its place alongside old production techniques and, as more and more types of materials are being printed all the time, including glass and pulp. 3D printing reduces costs and saves on the environment, since there is effectively almost no material loss. And, transportation costs are greatly reduced as products are made in only the necessary quantities. HUB logistics is actively searching for opportunities to improve services through the use of 3D printing.


Anne Huvinen
Anne works at HUB logistics as a 3D coordinator

References
I. Gibson, D.W. Rosen, and B. Stucker, Additive Manufacturing Technologies,
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-1120-9

HUB logistics is deepening customer collaboration in logistics services

service science blog kuva21

Blog by Inka Lappalainen and Marika Makkonen 

Transforming logistics services towards S-D logic approach

By Inka Lappalainen and Marika Makkonen

Companies focusing on logistics services are called for proactive approach to develop customized service concepts to operate and manage complex material, information and capital flows in customers' value chains and networks.
An ideal example for that kind of trend provides our collaboration with HUB logistics which aimed at developing new conceptual tools for key customer relations in rapidly growing business areas (see here  and here for more).

The focus was in future modes for customer collaboration from strategic and operational perspectives and developing a conceptual framework for resource integration by applying S-D logic approach (Vargo & Lusch 2008; Maas et al. 2014). Empirical work is based on the interviews of the HUB management, representatives of three key customers and their HUB key account managers. The results were analysed and discussed with HUB in order to support customer specific development in the different time frames and to structure a conceptual model for support offering development.

Utilizing service platform for resource integration and relationship trajectories

In addition to customer specific needs our empirical results showed that two main value expectations characterized logistics services:

  • operational adaptability, flexibility and cost effectiveness
  • deep customer understanding, proactive development-orientation, and innovation capability

Long term customer collaboration manifested as mutual trust, integrative practices, continuous learning and open communication in all collaboration levels.

As the main result the conceptual frame for communicating value proposition with the platform of various resources and competences (service offering) was developed (cf. Lusch & Nambisan 2014). The main idea of the service platform is built on four service levels describing HUB value propositions (Standard, Plus, Premium and Premium+) including four types of customer collaboration: Service producer, Customer support, Performance partner, Development partner. Thus the platform is based on the transformation in value creation logic from G-D logic towards S-D logic (Vargo & Lusch 2008). Changes in service exchange are reflected in customer collaboration as a continuum where in one extreme a value proposition focuses on operative efficiency with more limited scope in customers' business and the role of Service producer. Another extreme can be defined as a solution-oriented value proposition aiming at innovative Development partnering along the value chain. Thus those four service roles or relationship types can be interpreted as a trajectory of specific provider-customer relation (cf. Lappalainen et al. 2014). Naturally, the role of Development partner cannot be the final aim in all customer relations.

Concerning chosen customers, the HUB management has gained deeper understanding of the development needs, future prospects and collaboration potential in short and long term. New conceptual frames support strategic and operative reflection, communication and decision making internally and with customers – and seemed to provide application possibilities in different industrial contexts too. In terms of scientific implication, our study provides the still needed empirical evidence and operative concepts in the debate on S-D logic in relationship-specific levels, which has been acknowledged also in logistics services (e.g. Maas et al. 2014).

 

 

References

Lappalainen, I., Nuutinen, M., Valjakka T. & Ahonen, T. (2014). Situated provider-customer interaction as an arena for continuous service innovation. 15 th CINet Conference, Budapest, September.

Lusch, R.F. and Nambisan, S. Service Innovation: A service-dominant logic perspective, MIS Quarterly, Vol. X, No. X/Forthcoming 2014–2015.

Maas, S., Herb, S. & Haartmann, E. (2014). Supply chain services from a service-dominant perspective: a content analysis. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management Vol. 44 No. 1/2, 2014, pp. 58-79.

Vargo, S. & Lusch, R. (2008), Service-dominant logic: continue the evolution, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36(1), pp. 1–10.

Versatile automation - mark my words!

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Recently, I had the possibility to familiarize myself with the blossoming Polish logistics market. Guided through enlightening tours of some of Poland's large logistics players and service providers, it is a startling discovery find that the automation boom which is taking place in Germany, the Nordic countries and the USA is not visible in Poland at all. My immediate suspicion is that the threshold between profitable automation investment and manual work is suspended somewhere between German and Polish salary costs.

An even more worrisome discovery is that in Poland your investment can be subsidized by the EU so, it's not the depreciation of the investment that makes the difference, it's the costs of running automation (maintenance, upkeep, etc.).

The big question is this: "Is the threshold large enough to justify investment by countries with notoriously expensive labor costs?" What I'm after with this question is the fact that depreciation is a fixed cost; labor is not. Right now Poland is playing very moderately with its currency exchange rate and has been weakening just enough to keep investments flowing in. In the future, however, their currency could be used more aggressively.

From an EU standpoint, Poland is the model example of things done right: repairing the infrastructure, being competitive, attracting investment and creating jobs. Poland boasts multiple examples of investments in manufacturing, which have been transferred into Poland from Asia simply due to the fact that Poland maintained a focal point on Asian trade.

In conclusion, it is my firm belief that logistics automation is currently headed in the wrong direction and, that logistics companies building highly sophisticated and very effective material handling devices, which can do only one thing at a time should, instead, invest in versatile automation, which can do multiple things at an average speed. By so doing, maintenance costs could be cut, lifetime costs could be cut and modifications to investment would meet the current market trends, much like the human does.

Aki Jumppanen

Aki is HUB logistics´s Managing Director