Encompassing more than 100,000 companies and subcontractors around the globe, the government and defense industries produce everything from equipment for law enforcement, infrastructure and public transit to the development, design, production, and maintenance of military weapons and systems, components, and parts.

The mission-critical nature of many of their applications means government and defense manufacturers face a number of unique challenges, starting with production volume.

From producing a handful of prototype parts for research to mass-producing a part for field deployment, government and defense manufacturers must be able to quickly move between low- and high- volume production, something that can be difficult – and expensive – for traditional manufacturing processes.

To stand up to the harsh conditions they’ll face, including high stress, heat, and corrosion, those parts need to be made from metal – and often alloys with specific composition or performance criteria that can make them difficult to machine.

Adding to the challenge government and defense manufacturers face is the fact that projects may last, in some cases, for 70 years or more. Maintaining or replacing parts over decades, however, can be challenging. If the original drawings or tooling is lost, they must be recreated from scratch, a process that is both time-consuming and expensive.

While all manufacturers aim to reduce delays in parts procurement, it is even more critical in the government and defense industries, where having or not having a part could literally be the difference between life and death.

Challenges for government and defense manufacturers aren’t solely related to the production and replacement of parts, but also extend to the supply chains manufacturers use to deliver them. In addition to issues related to warehousing and tracking spare parts and the logistics of ensuring parts are delivered where and when they’re needed, production lines and machine shops are often kept open year-round, yet may only produce a handful of parts a year.

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