Of Narrow Windows and Acrobats: COVID-Responsiveness and Knock-Ons via Additive Manufacturing Capabilities
41 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021
Date Written: July 8, 2021
This research investigates the institutional factors that have driven firms equipped with additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities to repurpose those capabilities as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. We also examine factors that affected the response outcomes as well as the overall lessons learned from engaging in the pandemic response. Critically, in each of these considerations, we seek to understand the role played by specific AM design capabilities. To answer these questions, we adopted an inductive theory building approach, leveraging a two-wave multiple case study design, to study the research questions. Our rich examination of 33 cases, each entailing interviews with multiple representatives conducted both in the Spring and late Fall of 2020, reveals that core/COVID-19 product similarities and regulatory familiarity are important drivers of participation, along with the unambiguous presence of demand pressure. High usage of generative design (GD), a category of computational technologies enabling novel and optimized design options, appears to compensate for lower levels in part similarity and regulatory familiarity. Firms making COVID-19-related parts, particularly those with extensive GD experience, also report the value of both AM agility and supply chain partners much more frequently than firms that did not participate and are far less likely to cite revelations of inventory risk during the pandemic. Taken together, our study informs both research and practice regarding the potential for GD experience to facilitate resource pivoting during pandemics and related crises, as well as its spillover effects regarding broader experiential learning.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, Case Study, Theory Building, Additive Manufacturing, Generative Design
JEL Classification: M11, O32, I10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation