Virtual warehousing and 3D printing has put DB Schenker firmly on the road to futuristic logistics, it said, launching its new system using its parent, Deutsche Bahn (DB), as its guinea pig.
DB said currently maintenance and repair stocks, worth up to $600m, involved thousands of spare parts for rail and locomotives having to be stored for when they are needed. The company claimed that by using DB Schenker’s virtual system, these storage costs could be reduced by 10%.
Some parts can be scanned, to create a digital version, and stored in the cloud. When there’s a need for a part, the digital scan is sent to the 3D printer to manufacture locally.
Arvid Eirich, who heads DB’s 3D manufacturing logistics supply chain, said, “We can save more than $60m a year in storage and inventory costs for parts we only need occasionally.”
DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes added: “This exemplifies what logistics of the future can do for customers. The aim is to avoid unnecessary warehousing and make supply chains even more stable and flexible.”
Mr. Thewes stated that if your company produces a product with a lengthy lifespan, say 25 to 30 years, you will need to maintain these products with spare parts. He continued, “These spares are not used that often and the capital having these parts in a warehouse for a lengthy period of time is bound, so what do we do?
“We basically go with you and analyze your inventory and your demand patterns, and then say, ‘these parts are viable for additive manufacturing’ and then we create a digital clone that is stored in our digital warehouse in the cloud; so, you don’t have physical inventory.”
Mr. Thewes said he believed the system would be good for customers and the climate, reducing delivery times, cutting long, climate-damaging journeys and saves on storage costs.
He added that similar industries like shipping and aviation, as well as those producing automotive parts, can also take advantage of this cost-saving opportunity provided by the system.
However, Mr. Eirich said, 3D printing of parts can take some time, so the lead time for purchasing, fabrication and delivery of parts must be factored in.
For DB, that means the company orders when it sees it is running low on particular parts, or when it is carrying out maintenance. This means that while some storage-related costs are reduced, they are not entirely eliminated.