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In my previous two blogs, I gave you some background information on 3D Printing and started describing the areas of an ERP that are typically impacted. Blog 2 included the areas of master data as well as bills of materials, product lifecycle management and product data management. This third blog will cover procurement, and material requirements planning, as well as other considerations.

PROCUREMENT AND MATERIAL REQUIREMENTS PLANNING

In general, a demand can be fulfilled from stock, production, or through procurement. 3D printing adds a variation of production on a small scale and independent of production facilities.

So, the material requirements planning (MRP) run must now consider printing of equipment. Based on the settings in the material master record and the priorities of the requisition or order, the MRP program in the ERP system suggests how to fill the demand best.

Direct vendor delivery would be another option, which requires significant changes to the contracts with the OEM or vendor. Under direct vendor delivery, the vendor would use 3D printing to produce the part.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Other topics need to be considered as well. They include printer integration, planning of printer capacity, contracting, and training.

Most 3D printers still offer only proprietary interfaces. Nearly all of them must be started manually to print an object, regardless of the interface. But OEMs are embracing OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), a machine-to-machine communication protocol for industrial automation developed by the OPC Foundation. They are also providing Web

services for integration. In general, SAP would aim to integrate through SAP Plant Connectivity software or the SAP Manufacturing Execution application. SAP Plant Connectivity could be the integration solution for 3D printers that support industrial interfaces like OPC UA and file transfer as well as Web services.

Currently, SAP software can deliver a previously generated 3D printer file to be used by the printer, as long as it is available from a document reference location or shared folder. The printer file must be generated specific to the 3D printer that is to print it. To avoid unnecessarily long waits and bottlenecks, sourcing decisions must take into consideration the capacity of the available printers.

Contracting is another area that will be impacted. Contracts with key vendors must specify which parts can be printed and which parts must not be printed. They must also spell out how the vendor is compensated, if technical data packages are being exchanged, and how the number of printed parts is tracked.

Lastly, the deployment of 3D printers will require resources skilled in 3D modeling and printer operation. Those resources must be trained and certified.

In the next blog, I’ll be looking into the usage of Blockchains related to 3D Printing.

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