What Speed Needs

One way to change the culture is to connect different stakeholders in a collaborative environment.

One way to change the culture is to connect different stakeholders in a collaborative environment.

My daughter procrastinates. Despite knowing a paper is due weeks in advance, or having days to finish her homework, she’ll wait until the last minute. With online homework submissions the norm now, it literally is the last minute. “Is your paper done?” I ask at dinner. “It’s not due till midnight,” is the reply.


I don’t know where she gets it. I mean, sure, this article is due tomorrow morning and it’s 9:58 p.m., but that’s different. I’m busy. There were other, more pressing, deadlines to meet first. Plus, I’m on the road. 

Out-Making the Competition

While on the road, I met some kindred spirits who are also on deadline. But instead of procrastinating, they’re looking for technologies and processes to help them meet tighter and tighter schedules. The general idea is that other people/companies/countries are moving quicker. Digital transformation is coming fast, and they want to adopt and integrate new technologies as soon as possible to keep up. 

At the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) Summit that took place May 8-9 in Blairsville, PA, Prabhjot Singh, additive product breakout leader at GE Research, expressed frustration with the current state of additive manufacturing. “Qualification of additive design for full-scale production still takes several years,” he told the audience. “As we move forward, that can’t be. Digital design tools need to come front and center to help determine what parts can be additively manufactured.”

GE Research, like many other companies, wants today’s trial-and-error additive manufacturing workflow that includes inspection of every part to become a first-time-right, intelligently controlled process with guaranteed outcomes. According to Singh, 30% of AM part costs are related to inspection. 

Collaborate or Procrastinate

NCDMM manages the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, America Makes—the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Digital Engineering and America Makes recently announced a partnership to help advance AM and promote America Makes’ efforts. America Makes is structured as a public-private partnership to innovate and accelerate AM to increase U.S. global manufacturing competitiveness. 

“America Makes gave us a platform to work with partners and competitors focused on an important problem,” Singh said at the NCDMM Summit, referring to the need to simulate AM processes. “What America Makes allowed us to do—it offered us a forum. Now we have Autodesk and ANSYS software that benefits the entire supply chain.”

Through America Makes, GE Research worked with universities and government labs to support research on the type of design for additive manufacturing software they needed to help speed up their AM part manufacturing processes. Some of those efforts eventually became part of Autodesk Netfabb and the ANSYS Additive Suite.

Competing on Speed 

Lt. Col. John Schmitt, U.S. Army, also spoke at the NCDMM Summit. He said speed is what will help the country stay competitive in the manufacturing space, despite intellectual property theft. 

“The speed at which we can manufacture will maintain our dominance,” he said, adding that the rate at which government agencies and contractors adopt new technology solutions will determine how fast we can manufacture. “I beg you get out there and share your technology.”

Culture gets a lot of the blame for the slow adoption of technology that could optimize workflows, and rightly so. My daughter doesn’t turn her homework in at the last minute because she’s waiting for her cloud-based classroom software to load. Excuses are easy. Deadlines are hard.

One way to change that culture is to connect different stakeholders in a collaborative environment. Software can go a long way in making it easy to collaborate and break down silos. However, face-to-face interaction within your company and with groups like NCDMM and America Makes are critical to making collaboration happen, which is critical to meeting ever-faster time-to-market deadlines.

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