The study aims to examine a discrepant industrial case that demonstrates how to achieve economies of scale with additive manufacturing (AM), thereby expanding the scope of AM beyond high-variety, customised production contexts.
Abductive reasoning is applied to analyse a case of using AM to compete with conventional production, winning a contract to supply 7,700,000 products. Comparing this case to existing theories and contemporary practices reveals new research directions and practical insights.
Economies of scale were realised through a combination of technological innovation and the adoption of operations management practices atypical of AM shops (e.g. design for volume, low-cost resource deployment and material flow optimisation). The former improved AM process parameters in terms of time, cost and dependability; the latter improved the entire manufacturing system, including non-AM operations/resources. This system-wide improvement has been largely overlooked in the literature, where AM is typically viewed as a disruptive technology that simplifies manufacturing processes and shortens supply chains.
It is empirically shown that an AM shop can achieve economies of scale and compete with conventional manufacturing in high-volume, standardised production contexts.
The authors are grateful for the funding provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 71872072] and the Guangdong Province Universities and Colleges Pearl River Scholar Funded Scheme 2017.
Huang, Y., Eyers, D.R., Stevenson, M. and Thürer, M. (2021), "Breaking the mould: achieving high-volume production output with additive manufacturing", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41 No. 12, pp. 1844-1851. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-05-2021-0350
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