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How additive manufacturing allows products to absorb variety in use: empirical evidence from the defensive industry

Davies, P. ORCID:, Parry, G., Alves, K. and Ng, I. (2020) How additive manufacturing allows products to absorb variety in use: empirical evidence from the defensive industry. Production Planning and Control, 33 (2-3). pp. 175-192. ISSN 0953-7287

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09537287.2020.1810763


The operations and supply chain management the normative assumption holds that a product’s structural and functional elements are fixed pre-production to support efficiency of operations. Firms moving from manufacturing to service are faced with delivering resource for customers in context and absorbing variety in use provides them with a number of challenges. This paper examines AM as a technology that efficiently provides high variety that meets emergent user demand. A single case study is undertaken, drawing upon design change data and in-depth interviews with industry experts. Findings show that in non-digitised environments, introducing design changes to modular products through life creates complexity, where complexity refers to increasing interdependencies between components in the product architecture that lead to increased coordination costs between internal and external supply chains. We find that advances in AM can act as a supply chain solution, managing complexity and allowing products and supply chains to efficiently and effectively adapt close to context of use. Findings suggest that existing theory must expand beyond the normative assumption that the physical product is fixed and the intangible service elements adapt to absorb variety, to include cases where the tangible product can absorb variety to meet emergent need.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting
ID Code:88673
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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