In response to hypercompetition, globalisation and increasing consumer expectations, many manufacturing firms have embraced lean manufacturing (LM). The primary goal of LM is to reduce/eliminate waste (muda). There is broad consensus as to what constitutes waste, but not on LM implementation. Implementation is not prescriptive with each firm relying on a different combination of administrative, process and routine change/innovation. Lean manufacturing brings about incremental change relying on administrative, process and routine levers. It best fits mass production where process variability is low and demand is high and stable. Lean manufacturing can significantly reduce waste but not eliminate waste, and the attained benefits have not always lived up to expectations. Additive manufacturing (AM) promises to revolutionise manufacturing beyond recognition by eliminating or drastically removing the waste thereby achieving sustainability. But AM is at its formative stage – the space between the concept and growth - where many promising breakthrough technologies fail. To reach its full potential, it needs to achieve high-scale adoption. In this paper, we examine how AM can significantly reduce/eliminate waste and how it can deliver triple bottom line on an unprecedented scale. We contend that AM, if adopted deeply and widely, will take LM to its final frontier, but there are a number of impediments to this end. We identify legitimation as critical to its wide diffusion and develop a number of propositions expediting AM's legitimation. Legitimation of AM will ensure its deep and broad diffusion and should this happen, waste will be a thing of the past an important stride towards sustainable future.
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- 3D printing
- Additive manufacturing
- Lean manufacturing