Passport to Innovation Q&A
Tibor, please describe DiManEx’s business model for people not yet familiar with the Amsterdam-based company.
Our mission is to revolutionize manufacturing supply chains. As we all know, industrial supply chains today are quite linear, so they are not easily adaptable—and they will need to go through a transformation. DiManEx imbeds 3D printing into your supply chain. We want to make it as easy as possible for supply chain teams. We have an end-to-end platform that enables manufacturing companies to identify the right parts for 3D production, to digitize their inventory, actually create a virtual warehouse and, when needed, print these parts on demand through a network of industrial high-quality production facilities. This typically happens for service and spare parts, and for first series, so just before the new production of the product or appliance. We make best use of supply chain and technical data to identify the parts that are not suitable. We look at lead time, total cost of ownership, waste and reduction of working capital. At the same time, we can help immediately solve decades-old supply chain problems with machines breaking down and legacy parts for which there are nolonger suppliers. We make it as hassle free as possible.
We started in the Amsterdam area. The majority of the OEMs we work with today are headquartered in Europe and have a large footprint in North America—or the other way around.
What have been your biggest challenges to doing business globally?
By far the biggest challenge is on the people side of things: change management. Digital manufacturing allows us to do things differently. But that means people must unlearn things they have done for decades.
What do you think the turmoil between the U.S. and China will mean for manufacturers globally five or 10 years from now?
Manufacturers will need to secure a supply of parts, components and modules during various stages of a manufacturing lifecycle, even more so now due to the globalization and the unprecedented geopolitical dynamics we see today. We need to mitigate these risks so that it will give them an advantage in a way that they can adapt quickly and in parallel avoid a lot of unneeded and mostly hidden costs. The trade war is also making companies more open to new ways of doing things: More agility in supply chains is needed. For DiManEx, this means we could simply redirect the supply of parts to our local manufacturing partners. This turmoil will also greatly impact global logistics, where the trend is to replace the middleman with technology. You see all kinds of platforms doing that. We also expect shipping volumes to decline in some regions and shift to other regions. You can imagine that logistics will shift from, let’s say, China to India or Europe, or Canada or Mexico.
Embedding digital manufacturing in a supply chain allows manufacturers to have parts produced and supplies where they need it. This way, they will also secure the availability (and avoid) overstocking, long lead times with no longer available parts and exploding supply chain costs to service their customers.
Doing business globally is obviously central to your business plan since you aim to supply “any part anywhere” for OEMs. What’s the best OEM example of how your business works?
For Electrolux, embedding 3D printing into its supply chain for service and spare parts is a big part of its digital transformation strategy. The company wants to optimize its supply chain for service and spare parts. A couple of years ago, DiManEx began identifying the parts that were eligible for 3D printing. We analyzed lots of data based on supply chain and technical criteria to see if we can digitize the parts and produce them in an economically viable way. The big objective there was … making sure supply chain optimization was carried out to the entire chain—to avoid excess stock and long lead times and to solve the question of unpredictability. That leads to either no stock or the stock being in the wrong location.
Uptime is an issue we write about often. What’s the best example of the work you’ve done on that issue?
The European Railway Group is responsible for the uptime of trains and coaches. Legacy parts have been a challenge. With them, we worked to resolve urgent issues one by one. And we’re now moving to a more proactive way using the platform: using the data to establish which parts need to be digitized so that if something happens, we can respond and react much more quickly.
I know DiManEx supplied more than 60 3D-printed interior parts to Lightyear for its solar-energy-powered car. What does your work with Lightyear say about the future of automotive manufacturing?
It says a few things. We see that the impact of AM in the supply chain of automotive companies will be enormous.
First, for first series (of parts)—as is the case with Lightyear.
Second, there are many companies—in the luxury segments and in elements of car production, for example—that do some customization.
Third, just like within other industries there is huge potential for service and spare parts.
Lastly, 3D printing gives a lot of design freedom, and the theme of weight reduction, for fuel efficiency, is important.