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The Impact of 3-D Printing on the Global Supply Chain
As part of the Industry 4.0, 3D printing technologies usher in new opportunities for businesses such as supply chain services, distribution design and manufacturing, and increasingly localized production. One of the world’s largest technology companies, Hewlett-Packard pledges to make large-scale changes to its supply chain as part of its 3D venture.
3D printing achievements in satellite antenna, cars or houses publicized it globally to quite an extent but its full impact is only now being realized as businesses fuse the technology with their manufacturing processes. The technology might be well on its way to reshaping supply chains but there is still time for a full-blown transformation of the entire supply chain.
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By Professor Nick Vyas, Executive Director and Co-Founder, USC Marshall’s Center for Global Supply Chain Management
Many believe 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to be the present and future of nearly every possible form of manufacturing. The technology has come in handy for industries ranging from engineering, aviation, and healthcare to architecture. However, a few hurdles do stand in the way of 3D printing’s widespread adoption with cost-effectiveness being at the forefront.
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Material and equipment costs form a significant portion of 3D printing production with appreciable cost profits hidden within inventory and supply chain considerations. In the auto industry, the technology enables a digital warehouse helping create an entire assembly of parts and equipment in one go and possibly reducing inventory and shipment costs. It essentially creates a domino effect throughout the supply chain. This adds the added benefit of profitability in end-to-end manufacturing along with 3D printing’s affordable production.
With 3D printing, companies can utilize the flexibility of the supply chain by breaking down production barriers in a consumer environment that mostly relies on digital strategies. Companies are able to send design files across the globe to a suitable location for production without worrying about security. This way, companies can lower their carbon footprints and reduce logistics costs.
3D printing offers mass customization as one of its biggest benefits with the potential to transform the supply chain into a stockless process. The brand new business model allows easy building of geometrically complex parts and as end customers are the ones driving it according to their needs, it lowers the inventory cost as well.
Companies must focus on working out the value of 3D printing in business rather than its technical value. Consumer companies are employing 3D printing for quicker product manufacturing to keep pace with e-commerce giants like Alibaba and Amazon.
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By William Whitford, Strategic Solutions Leader, BioProcess, GE Healthcare Life Sciences