CHAPTER FIVEDeutsche Bahn: Applying 3D Printing to the Supply Chain

The german rail company Deutsche Bahn AG has a hugely complex supply chain. The largest railway company in the world by revenue, it employs over 300,000 people across 130 countries. It owns, operates, maintains, and repairs some 24,000 units in fleets of local, national, and international trains across Europe and beyond, as well as a wide network of stations, tracks, and other infrastructure, carrying passengers on over four billion journeys each year and annually moving over 300 million tons of cargo. It has to deal with assets that are based on both old technologies, such as the rail network, as well as new developments, like the European Train Control System (ETCS)—the continent's newest signaling and control infrastructure.

This broad portfolio of assets is capital-intensive, requiring the investment of billions of euros on trains that have lifecycles measured in decades; the latest models of locomotives and carriages in its fleet are over 40 years old. In the past, Deutsche Bahn and its predecessors in West and East Germany had their own internal manufacturing departments to make spare parts for their fleets. However, late in the twentieth century, cost pressures led Deutsche Bahn to cease this manufacture and instead to rely on suppliers alone, either by buying the likely inventory of spare parts at the beginning of a contract or later in the lifecycle of the equipment. The combination of a large and long-lifed ...

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