Economic and Environmental Assessment of Spare Parts Production Using Additive Manufacturing

Economic and Environmental Assessment of Spare Parts Production Using Additive Manufacturing

Atanu Chaudhuri (Aalborg University, Denmark) and Dennis Massarola (Aalborg University, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9078-1.ch007


This chapter aims to investigate the potential economic and environmental sustainability outcomes of additive manufacturing (AM) for spare parts logistics. System dynamic simulation was conducted to analyze the sustainability of producing a spare part used in a railways subsystem using a particular additive manufacturing (AM) technology (i.e., selective laser sintering [SLS]) compared to producing it using injection molding. The results of the simulation showed that using SLS for the chosen part is superior to the conventional one in terms of total variable costs as well as for carbon footprint. Compared to the conventional supply chain, for the AM supply chain, the costs of the supplier reduces by 46%, that of the railways company reduces by 71%, while the overall supply chain costs reduce by 61.9%. The carbon emissions in the AM supply chain marginally reduces by 2.89% compared to the conventional supply chain.
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Additive manufacturing (AM) technologies produce objects from computer-aided design (CAD) model data, usually adding layer upon layer, in contrast to conventional subtractive manufacturing methods that involve the removal of material from a starting work piece (Gibson et al., 2015).

Usage of AM in the spare parts supply chain has been studied by several authors (Ghadge et al., 2018; Li et al., 2017; Holmström et al., 2016; Khajavi et al., 2014). Use of AM for spare parts manufacturing is useful in industries with severe consequences for late deliveries and non-availability (Holmström et al., 2017). Spare parts produced using AM can support the maintenance process of advanced capital goods throughout their lifecycles, which often spans several decades (Knofius et al., 2016) without the need of having high inventory levels. Thus, producing spare parts using AM is also expected to have environmental sustainability implications

However, despite these prospective advantages, the sustainability impact of AM and specifically for producing spare parts using AM has not been explored sufficiently in the academic literature (Kellens et al., 2017). While AM could be an enabler and a driving force for improved industrial sustainability, the consequences of its implementation on the industrial system could lead to an alternative scenario in which less eco-efficient localised production combined with higher rate of product obsolescence can also result in an overall increase in resource consumption (Ford and Despeisse, 2016). Hence, further research on the implications of AM on supply chain performance, especially those in which quantitative evaluations are involved, is needed but is scarce in the literature (e.g. Liu et al., 2014; Li et al., 2017; Ghadge et al., 2018). Thus, this study aims to fill this research gap by contributing to the field of sustainable AM in its application to spare parts logistics. Therefore, the economic and environmental outcomes of AM in the structure of the spare parts supply chain, are assessed by performing a comparative study of the alternative manufacturing solutions from the perspective of a railways company. Specifically, the research tries to answer the following research questions:

  • RQ1: What are the sustainability implications of the implementation of AM in the structure of a spare parts supply chain?

  • RQ2: How does the adoption of AM technologies impact the economic and environmental sustainability performances in the spare parts supply chain of a railways company?

The flow of the chapter is shown in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1.

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