Monthly Archives: July 2015

3D Printing is changing the way we think

Surveys indicate that more than 30 percent of the top 300 largest global brands are now using or evaluating 3D printing (often with printing technology in-house) whether for prototyping and other innovation projects or in actual production of what they sell. Over 200 universities and colleges already offer 3D coursework in their curricula – covering aspects of not only 3D printing but also 3D scanning and design. To my mind, there is no question that 3D has reached, as Dartmouth’s Richard D’Aveni argues in a recent HBR article, a tipping point.

Even Terry Wohlers, founder of Wohlers Associates and publisher of the most cited research tracking the rise of 3D technology, is impressed. In a recent email exchange he told me: “We’re seeing a level of investment in 3D printing that we have not seen in the past — not even close.” As much of a champion as Wohlers is for the technology, he marvels at how the pace is picking up: “It’s really very interesting, and to some extent, mind-boggling, especially given that 3D printing has been around for morethan 25 years.”

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3D printing – the end of outsourcing?

From golf clubs to firearms, pharmaceuticals to trainers, 3D Printing is disrupting the manufacturing process of an increasing number of products. But what are the long-term implications for the supply chain as a whole?

It’s a common misconception that 3D printing is something new. Although the processes and thinking for it have been around for a number of years, it’s taken a while for the technology to catch up and allow wider functionality and usage.

As a procurement and supply chain professional, this opens up a world of possibilities – a world of potential cost savings as a result of lower manufacturing costs and a centralised supply chain. Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight, but organisations can start to think differently.

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How 3D Printing changes the economics of outsourcing and globalization

3D Printing is a revolution that changes two important economic equations – insourcing/outsourcing, and the globalization/localization equation.

It tips the balance between insourcing and outsourcing of manufacturing in favor of insourcing. And it tips the balance between globalization and localization in favor of localization.

In the pre-3D Printer era, outsourcing —  the transfer of a number of business activities to third parties either at home or abroad — allowed companies to improve efficiency, cut costs, speed up product development, and focus on their “core competencies.” It helped American companies address the destructive forces of globalization; that is, the intensification of competition and the price and profit erosion that followed it.

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How 3D Printing changes the economics of outsourcing and globalization

3D Printing is a revolution that changes two important economic equations – insourcing/outsourcing, and the globalization/localization equation.

It tips the balance between insourcing and outsourcing of manufacturing in favor of insourcing. And it tips the balance between globalization and localization in favor of localization.

In the pre-3D Printer era, outsourcing —  the transfer of a number of business activities to third parties either at home or abroad — allowed companies to improve efficiency, cut costs, speed up product development, and focus on their “core competencies.” It helped American companies address the destructive forces of globalization; that is, the intensification of competition and the price and profit erosion that followed it.

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Manufacturing as a Service

Personalized, customized, one-off – many consumers are gravitating to products they can personalize when purchasing cars, handbags and shoes. Armed with technology that makes customization more manageable, factories are positioning themselves to respond with an offer known as Manufacturing as a Service.

MaaSAs consumers embrace the ability to personalize the goods they buy – from customized bras that fit the wearer’s unique proportions to shoes with mix-and-match fabrics that reflect the consumer’s specific taste – Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) is being implemented worldwide, especially at factories that do manufacturing for hire.

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The advancement of 3D Printing and its impact on manufacturing and distribution

The transportation industry depends upon shippers’ need to transport products and components from one geographical location to another. Can 3D printing technologies eliminate much of that need?

3D printing technology is rapidly evolving and the advancement of this field could present a radical challenge to the transportation industry over the next 20 years. e-Commerce shipping volume may suffer as sellers recognize the capability to transfer their product designs electronically for 3D printing at a location near the consumer. To mitigate the risk of losing shipping business to electronic transfer of 3D printing blueprints, industry leaders need to incorporate 3D printing into their strategic thinking. They need to partner with both shippers and 3D printing service providers to optimize 3D printing use and logistics, and it is not unreasonable for these transportation companies to offer 3D printing services at selected customer-facing locations.

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