What’s an automotive minute worth?

3D printing in the automotive manufacturing industry is nothing new, but innovation has gone into overdrive in recent months. It seems that every day we’re hearing new stories about auto brands leveraging the technology in different ways to speed up the design and manufacturing process. For example, Hyundai recently announced a new design center meant to cut design cycles in half—fully equipped with 3D printers. Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen Autoeuropa, and almost every other major auto brand have been vocal about the technology’s role in production.

To demonstrate the potential financial impact of the newfound efficiencies brought on by 3D printing, Ultimaker sought out to answer: what exactly is an automotive minute worth? By crunching numbers from public data sets, we found that the cost of automotive manufacturing in the United States is $460,706 per minute, or $1,110,663,840 per week. This means that even the slightest improvements in efficiency can introduce time and cost savings that have major influence on a company’s bottom line.

Many companies are already reaping the benefits. Volkswagen Autoeuropa, for example, reported cost savings in the 90%+ range after just one of its plants turned to Ultimaker printers to create custom tools and jigs that are used daily on the assembly line, replacing an old process that required outsourcing and long lead times. Not only did 3D printing introduce a more cost-effective way to produce the tools, it gave time back to the company. The seemingly minor change saved that one plant over $175,000 in 2016, and it’s projected to save over $375,000 this year.

Our full findings with methodology are below. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change over the next few years as 3D printing becomes more entrenched in the automotive industry and the technology continues to advance. I expect that the cost of the automotive minute will decrease, and revenue per minute will increase as companies gain back time.

The numbers, including the following, are based on these public data sets from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reports on the number of people employed in the U.S. auto industry, the number of workers in certain auto manufacturing roles and average salaries for each role. Additionally, auto industry revenue data was brought into the calculations.

$420,706 per minute is the cost of automotive manufacturing – all U.S. auto employees/salaries rolled up together. That equates to:

  • $1,110,663,840 per week
  • $4,442,655,360 per month

$3,221,000 per minute in revenue (96 x $33,560) – what automotive manufacturers are bringing in every minute. Calculated by:

  • 96 vehicles per working minute produced – based on total number of cars produced annually
  • At an average vehicle price of $33,560 – publicly reported

$50,667 per minute is the cost just for assemblers and fabricators of miscellaneous parts – based on number of workers and salaries

$18,706 per minute is the cost just for mechanical and industrial engineers –based on number of workers and salaries.

Are you surprised by the worth of an automotive minute? What do you think about 3D printing’s impact on the industry?