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Situation faced: GKN Powder Metallurgy, a leading manufacturer for high precision parts for the automotive industry (GKN Sinter Metals) as well as for metal powder (GKN Hoeganaes), faced the question of how to deliver the future technology of metal additive manufacturing successfully to the market. The potential which stems from disruptive technologies, such as 3D printing to established structures of the industry, was supposed to be realized through an innovative business model before other competitors or new entrants would claim the market.
Action taken: GKN connected with start-ups to gain access to innovative ideas and digital know-how. But it also realized that thinking differently makes it necessary to act differently. Therefore, a separate unit was created, which was detached from the established organizational structure. Together with 3YOURMIND (3YD), a start-up in the area of 3D printing, GKN not only realized a platform and business model, but also digitalized the related back-end processes. Based on the initial success and the grown relationship, the digitalization partnership was furthermore instructed to question the status quo at GKN in more fundamental ways.
Results achieved: With InstAMetal, a digital platform and brand has been developed through which the potential of Metal additive manufacturing (MAM) could be realized at the front-end. Due to innovative services as well as the high scalability and reach of the platform, not only existing customers could be inspired with the new offer, but completely new customers and markets could be won. The platform also triggered the digitalization of the related back-end processes, and while technology and procedures changed, the culture also began to transform with regard to the daily work with 3YOURMIND. Inspired by this success, traditional manufacturing technologies are now being successively investigated for their digital potential and platform capability.
Lessons learned: Four central aspects turned out to be important parameters in the digitalization partnership of GKN and 3YOURMIND: (i) plan digital projects “by sight”, but with a vision, (ii) start in market niches and corporate niches to gain experience and legitimacy, (iii) set up a shelter, in order to decouple the digital initiative from established organizational patterns of action and thought, and (iv) actively engage in co-innovation by systematically opening and networking with start-ups, customers and corporates—because digitalization does not stop, but rather starts at corporate boundaries.
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- Digitalization Partnership: How GKN Established a Digital Platform with 3YD to Realize the Disruptive Potential of Metal Additive Manufacturing
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