To better help its customers create and manage their digital inventories, Würth Industry North America (WINA) has launched a new U.S.-based company called Würth Additive Group. WINA started dabbling in offering its customers additive tools, such as 3D printing products and services, in late 2017.
In addition to 3D printing, the Würth Additive Group also offers white glove services to its customers as well as financing and rental options on equipment. Instead of customers loading up their inventory parts lists onto CDs, they can now keep them as MP3 files on their devices.
“Our partner network includes printer manufacturers. Our main business is selling the equipment and materials to help our customers adopt it,” says Würth Additive Group CEO AJ Strandquist. “We bring together all of the different vendors and services so that our customers can have one convenient location and be able to have access to all of it.”
The end result for customers is manufacturing on demand, according to Strandquist. The additive solutions that Würth Additive Group provides plug into its existing supplier solutions so it’s easier for customers to integrate that new tech into existing Würth supply chain solutions, according to the company’s CFO, Achim Grenner
“We try to lower entry barriers by offering very competitive financing and leasing, as well as rental models or equivalents, which is still fairly unique in the industry,” Grenner says. “We make it easy for our vendors, as well as our suppliers, who tend not to be 75-year-old family-owned companies but rather startups. We offer them access to our customer network that is in the millions worldwide.”
While Würth competes globally with companies such as Grainger and Fastenal, offering 3D digital solutions enables Würth Additive Group to create flexible inventory solutions that gives customers a lower total cost of ownership, according to Strandquist.
“Additive manufacturing fits into our industrial customers because it helps create products that historically are either too expensive, too difficult to make, or too difficult to source,” says Strandquist, “And 3D printing kind of solves those things very easily.
“The Würth Additive Group encompasses everything from everyday desktop printers to high-end applications for folks like NASA. It encompasses everything from equipment, materials, engineering services, design and validation all the way up to getting certified 3D printed parts through our network.”
As a cog in a global company that does business with 425 business in more than 80 countries globally, the additive group gives Würth a competitive advantage, Strandquist says.
“We’re really taking the lead on integrating digital inventory with a bedrock of thousands of customers with physical inventory programs that we have,” he says. “Humbly, I would say we’re pioneering new territory for how to talk about the technology. I don’t want to sound over the top, but we are a little different than just about everybody else.”
Kanban goes digital
Würth Additive Group offers fully digital Kanban solutions by integrating 3D printing technology into its existing vendor managed inventory programs. The digital version of Kanban allows customers to make digital twins of parts. A company could make a digital twin of a key part so that it’s readily available when that part breaks.
“What we advise our customers to do is to find those parts and make digital versions of them,” Strandquist says. “But then print off one of them and have that sitting in a bin on your normal inventory program. That way, when that machine breaks, you are running to that bin, because Würth has labels and it’s all very easy to navigate, to grab that part. You’re going to run the machine and you’re going to get it back up and running quickly.”
The Würth Additive Group’s software comes through and scans the empty bin and sends an alert to a print manager to notify him or her what needs to be replaced along with the recipe for how its made.
“So if you think about it, that allows you to carry less inventory. You have less cash on the shelf, but you have inventory exactly when you need it,” Strandquist says. “For the non-critical part, that’s fine as you don’t have one piece standing in inventory. You just print it when you need it.
“It all goes back to the flexibility of being able to go through the work of creating a digital twin of a part. Once you’re done, you have it forever, and you can transfer it. You can tweak it and make all of these changes without very much work. The real work is creating the digital twin and making sure that it’s right, and that it does the job it needs to do.”
As part of the announcement on the formation of Würth Additive Group, WINA announced it had signed a global distribution agreement with Markforged, which is among the leading providers of fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing Strandquist says additional partnerships for the ecosystem will be announced, but Würth also has partnerships in place with other vendors such as Baker Hughes.
“Our core business is the control of inventory,” Strandquist says. “We make billions of dollars today selling fasteners not by saying, ‘Hey, we have such a great bolt, check it out.’ That’s not very attractive. What we say is ‘You have 1,000s of these bolts, isn’t that really hard to manage?’ We’re going to help you control the costs, the inventory, the performance and the quality. We’re going to take all of that off your plate because it’s really hard to keep track of fasteners.
“That’s why we put so much money into our software. We don’t sell hardware piece-by-piece. We sell it with a white glove solution where customers don’t have to stress about it. They know that it’ll be there on time, every time. We’re using the latest technology to optimize that whole process and to lower the total cost of ownership.”