Most research of Additive Manufacturing (AM, 3D printing) in the Operations Management field has so far either focused on analysing specific operational applications of AM or limited strategic assessments to conceptual approaches. Yet, the literature lacks empirical attempts to explore a structural shift in the value chain of AM and the positioning and offerings by new actors entering the market. In the present paper, we investigate activities of newly founded businesses and try to understand differences across their position and sources of value creation. We draw on existing business model and specifically value creation research to understand sources of value creation for AM.
First, we delineate the value chain of AM and identify key value-adding processes along the chain to create a two-layer framework on enabling technologies and executing services. Second, we leverage this AM value chain framework and identify entrepreneurial firms that position along the value chain. Utilizing CrunchBase database, which is a publicly available business information platform covering entries of start-ups and Fortune 500 entrepreneurial firms, we sample and cluster 176 firms that provide goods or services related to AM. Identifying eight distinct groups of firms, we commonly find functional-centric firms that focus on the provision of technology (e.g., 3D printer manufacturer, 3D scan experts, design software developer) but also a notable share of firms extending across multiple functions and even layers. Third, we extend our analysis to compare the related value creation sources across the eight groups and find differences with regard to their sources of value creation.
Finally, two major contributions emerge from this paper. On the one hand, our research takes a first attempt to explore new actors in the value chain of AM and provide empirical endorsement on possible shifts in value chain structures. On the other hand, we provide strategic insights on the related sources of value creation captured from AM. Our findings on entrepreneurial firms are thereby also of great interest for incumbent companies and further stakeholders along the AM value chain because they highlight a shift in functions and define possible spheres of activity to position in the context of AM.
Co-author: Prof. Dr. Kai Hoberg
Jakob Heinen is a PhD Candidate in Supply Chain Management at Kühne Logistics University since January 2015. He joined KLU in 2012 to pursue the M.Sc. Program in Global Logistics graduating as the Best Graduate of his class in 2014. In addition to his Master studies in Hamburg he spent a trimester abroad at the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business in Windhoek, Namibia, participating in courses of the Master of Leadership and Change Management program. Prior to KLU he completed a Bachelor in Aviation Management at the IUBH School of Business and Management in Bad Honnef.
Besides his studies, Jakob gained practical experience within different fields of supply chain management during internships at Lufthansa Cargo in the USA as well as the United Nations Office for Project Services in Denmark.
His research at KLU is closely linked to his master thesis on "Supply Chain Operating Models for 3D Printing". Jakob seeks to address the strategic, tactical and operational challenges manufacturing companies face when introducing innovative production technologies such as 3D Printing.
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