The Future of 3D Printing and Its Effect on the Supply Chain

We read on 3D Printing.com that: "It is predicted by some additive manufacturing advocates that this technological development will change the nature of commerce, because end users will be able to do much of their own manufacturing rather than engaging in trade to buy products from other people and corporations."

While we had thought of 3D printing in the realms of the big adopters, like GE, Boeing or Nike, to improve existing products, develop new ones or improve business processes, we hadn't given in-depth thought to how, as it reaches the more mainstream, this technology could affect the procurement of goods from the supply chain.

Clearly someone else had: an article published on our US Spend Matters sister site called "3 Ways 3D Printing Will Revolutionize The Modern Supply Chain (And 1 Important Way it Won’t)" was written by Steven P. Roth of GEP, leading procurement and supply chain solutions provider and one of our regular post contributors.

Here's an extract from the article:

"The long heralded commercial arrival of 3D printing (3DP) is upon us, and a number of industry surveys indicate the impact of this emerging technology is anticipated to grow significantly over the next 10 years. For those unfamiliar with the technology, 3DP, or additive manufacturing, is a process by which a 3-dimensional object can be constructed from a computer model through successive layering of various materials with the use of a specialized computer-controlled machine.

In media related to 3DP, considerable coverage has been given to the technical capabilities and long-term potential of the technology, but little consideration has been given to how it will change the day-to-day work of supply chain, operations and procurement professionals in the immediate future. To remedy this deficiency, this article identifies and discusses 3 ways 3DP will revolutionize the modern supply chain and one very important way that it won’t."

It goes on to discuss:

Supply Chain Disintermediation -- and how "instead of shipping products overseas with months of lead time, savvy suppliers will send electronic blueprints to local 3D printers or even to the end user where products can be printed in a matter of hours."

Value of Geographically Fixed Distribution Networks Will Decrease -- "3DP manufacturing technology will allow design to become increasingly virtual and remote and production to become increasingly local."

Vertical Supply Chain Collaboration Will be Key -- "with the potential for greater partnership between companies and their suppliers, forward-thinking firms can develop competitive advantage through increased supply chain performance and speed-to-market."

It is an interesting article, shedding some light on how supply chain, procurement and operations functions will need to work more collaboratively. It's well worth a read and you can find it in full here. 3 Ways 3D Printing Will Revolutionize The Modern Supply Chain (And 1 Important Way it won’t)

3D Printing.com also gives a clear and concise description of 3D printing, what it is, how it works and what the future holds. And for those who want to know more but haven't the time, it provides an excellent infographic by Sculpteo (you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the article) that summarises it all in a nutshell.

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