Additive manufacturing (AM) makes it possible to produce parts on demand, close to operations, with significantly reduced lead times compared to conventional manufacturing. However, without standardization or guidelines, additively manufactured parts could raise the risk of unexpected or premature failures due to inherent variation of mechanical and metallurgical properties associated with this new technology. This is especially true when the reduced lead time is the desired advantage, where speed may be prioritized over quality. A standardised framework is proposed to free up value locked in physical warehouse inventory and reduce inventory management cost through digital warehousing in a safe and cost-efficient way. Through a joint industry project, with participating companies throughout the entire AM value chain, we propose an assurance framework that answers questions such as: can the digital drawing be available when needed? Can the parts be made ‘first time’ right when needed? Can it be made with the same quality at another location next time? Which party is responsible for the different stages? What requirements should be in place for the companies who wish to manufacture on demand?
The digital warehouse assurance framework discussed in this work demonstrates that digital warehousing powered by AM could potentially shorten lead times for sourcing parts and reduce the need for costly storage, maintenance and coordination of spare parts that are rarely used. We also discuss the different variants of digital warehousing we may see, and the roles and responsibilities various digital warehouse stakeholders have for facilitating unambiguous communication.
AM is already disrupting supply chains in many other industries, but it is in its infancy in the oil & gas, offshore and maritime sectors as they ponder challenges with intellectual property (IP) and usage rights for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) designs, standardization of technology interfaces and the lack of knowledge and trust of the technology. The digital warehouse quality assurance framework proposed and discussed in this work is unique and has potential to not only accelerate adoption of AM in oil & gas and offshore sectors, but also contribute to a significant reduction of emissions, including greenhouse gases.