3D printing lies at the bottom of service providers’ Industry 4.0 technology offerings; there are many challenges left unsolved if it’s going to surpass cool use case videos to be the production process of the future. Providers are showing signs of solving these challenges alongside their manufacturing partners, but manufacturing execs shouldn’t go in with guns blazing before guaranteeing rapid innovation in the short-term and concrete value in the long-term. Equally, they can’t be complacent and fail to have the capability and partner network ready-to-go when the technology booms—or they’ll be playing catchup, making expensive purchases, and signing one-sided contracts with vendors.
HFS’ Industry 4.0 Services Top 10 for 2019 asked leading providers to rate the maturity of their offerings across Industry 4.0’s core enabling technologies (see Exhibit 1). Unsurprisingly, predictive analytics and AI applications, big data, and IoT are the most mature segments. IoT provides real-time data flow, on top of which data analysis can derive insight and with that, value. While aspects of robotics and small-batch manufacturing are still emerging, they’ve been around for decades and are moving along the maturity scale; we cannot say the same of 3D printing.
MERCHANT ships are massive — often spanning a few hundred feet — and have thousands of moving parts.
Given the progress made by cross-border trade and commerce post-globalization, and the recent rise of e-commerce, more than 50,000 ships undertake nearly half-a-million voyages every year.
To avoid catastrophes while at sea, merchant ships need to be serviced often. One of the major costs that merchant ship owners have to account for when it comes to maintenance is the inventory cost of spare parts given the number of spares that must be carried at any given time.
The other challenge to effective maintenance is that ships travel from one port to another during its voyage. If something needs to be repaired when it is not at its home, spares must be sent to the port where it is docked.
Avi Reichental’s Jewish mother wanted him to be a rabbi. While he didn’t take that particular path, during a long career in tech – prayer has certainly come in handy.
Now the leader of XponentialWorks, a combination of venture fund, advisory firm and product developer, the 3D printing industry veteran has seen it all, from widespread doubt about technology, to frenzied investment, and back to more realistic expectations. But when Reichental started at 3D Systems, the company he led for 12 years, he asked for a benediction.
“I came from Sealed Air, we virtually printed cash,” Reichental, who is affable and chatty throughout our long interview, said. “The same could not be said for 3D Systems at the time. I had to kind of get down on my knees and beg many of our major suppliers to give me time, a new experience for me,” he tells me.