Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

3D Is No Longer the “Next Big Thing”: It’s Here

Are you ready for the additive manufacturing revolution?

Of course, Reichental has good reason to be a 3D evangelist. His company, which expects $650 million in sales in 2014, is one of the largest suppliers of additive parts and machines, along with such players as Stratasys and ExOne. His arguments that SMEs should take steps to get into the 3D game are compelling. He points out that SME companies that lack the resources and scale of the aerospace giants can catch up rapidly.

“The good news for smaller companies is that they don’t have to start where Pratt & Whitney started,” says Reichental. “Smaller companies can instantly stand on the shoulders of the Pratts that have been refining the knowledge for a quarter of a century. That should be their starting point. In the age of ubiquitous information and connectivity, nobody has to start from scratch.”

How can SME CEOs shortcut the learning process? The first step, experts agree, is for a leader to show personal interest in additive manufacturing by attending trade shows, visiting potential vendors, seeking out university or government programs—like America Makes—and tapping the expertise of consultants who may educate him or her. The process has to start at the top because the executives in any company who manage the manufacturing process are inherently conservative. They understand existing processes and existing equipment, and they know how to make all of it perform to acceptable levels of quality. However, they generally do not want to rock the boat.

Reichental says a CEO should identify an internal champion within the company to lead the push toward 3D manufacturing. One set of possible internal allies are designers, who understand that 3D manufacturing will allow them to innovate parts in dramatically new ways. They no longer have to worry that a part is not “manufacturable” with traditional casting or forging techniques. With
3D, they can design sleeker parts and products that can be dramatically more effective, often at the same or lower cost.

But Scott Defelice, CEO of Oxford Performance Materials, based in South Windsor, Connecticut, says that finding an internal champion may be difficult. The people in charge of manufacturing will not want to devote the time and energy to study a new, disruptive technology, he warns. “The guys who are making the plant run are probably not going to be your internal innovators. But if the CEO just takes the word of his internal guys and they don’t go down the [3D] path and five years down the road they find themselves losing market share, that’s a substantial strategic mess.”

Ultimately, most experts seem to agree, a CEO will need to introduce outsiders, such as consultants, suppliers, university experts and other players, into a company’s 3D deliberations. The fancy term for that is “open innovation.” “We would advise the CEOs of SMEs to look outside their own four walls for experts and solutions to help them achieve their goals in the 3D printing market,” says Paul Musille, an associate program manager at NineSigma, a Cleveland-based innovation advisor. “This can accelerate the R&D process and speed the time to market.”

Once a CEO gets the company solidly focused on 3D, it’s not sensible to make any wild leaps. “It’s just like anything that’s new,” says consultant Wohlers. “It requires some tender, loving care. If you don’t give it the attention it deserves, you can buy the wrong equipment or go down the wrong path.”

3D-3Because there are so many different types of industries and so many different 3D techniques, there is no one sacred path for a CEO to take. Therefore, it makes sense to set targets for the company and to embrace experimentation. The experts suggest buying some parts from a 3D supplier and buying a few inexpensive 3D printers to start developing a knowledge base. Getting the right set of skills on board is another key factor—and may require some strategic hiring and firing.

“CEOs have to find the right people to take the technology and leverage it,” says Emory Wright, vice president of operations at Align Technology. “They need to make sure that [they] fit very well together.”


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.