I’ve written on the concept of digital inventory previously, but now a company is doing so directly.
The basics of the concept are found here, but in short, the idea is to maintain a digital, rather than a physical, inventory of spare parts to reduce costs. Just 3D print the parts when you require them.
Two companies have recently taken steps in that direction. 3YOURMIND has developed a service that a company could use to identify existing part designs that could be 3D printed, and their partnership with EOS should bring much profit to both companies and their clients in this endeavor.
Another one is UPS, who recently published a concept for a digital inventory where their existing logistics system could quickly deliver the 3D printed parts.
But now I’ve been referred to a company called, “Spare Parts 3D”, based in Singapore, who seem to be taking this concept on directly. They do three things:
- Carefully selecting 3D printable parts from a client’s existing spare parts catalog using a comprehensive methodology and analysis systems.
- Creating digital CAD models for parts in a client’s inventory that do not have a digital representation.
- Providing on-demand production of spare parts on a “distributed network of 3D printers”, including required quality assessments and delivery of same to the client.
This is essentially a full digital inventory outsourcing service. In other words, if you currently have a huge inventory of parts and are spending vast sums to maintain warehouses of them worldwide, you simply hand the problem to these folks and they automate the entire thing.
However, I suspect it could be pricey to get engaged, as there would be thousands, maybe even millions of parts in some companies’ inventories. That will take considerable time to sort through and develop the necessary quality checks and other aspects.
The real savings occur when a company can shut down a physical warehouse, so doing only a few parts won’t affect costs much. So expect big deals to be made here.
Spare Parts 3D seems to have thought out the problem reasonably well: they protect intellectual property, ship within 48 hours, automatically generate production instructions and create profitability studies.
As the first company to formally put together all these functions into a comprehensive, well-thought out service, I suspect they may be getting a great deal of business soon.