Client Resources, Supply Chain Trends

Why Supply Chain Needs to Embrace 3-D Printing to Reach Customers

Thanks to ever-increasing levels of supply chain efficiency, customers are demanding more when it comes to acquiring the goods they need.

Many suppliers are meeting these greater expectations by embracing 3-D printing and supply chain stakeholders need to embrace the change as well.

Opening up to social media

Rising in popularity at almost the same time, 3-D printing and social media are a natural combination. Customers will increasingly ask for the capacity to use their mobile devices to order custom goods with the expectation of rapid delivery, which means online presence and social media interaction will only grow more relevant. The 3-D printing wave will likely carry on the transfer of power in the direction of retailers like Amazon that currently have online ordering systems favored by shoppers. With some websites seeing more than half of their traffic from mobile devices, the ability to meet consumers’ demand will win your company more business.

More automation

More 3-D printing also means more automation in the form of drone delivery systems.

Along with reducing labor through automating recurring jobs, drones require less infrastructure and produce minimal waste. The dependence on human drivers requires a vehicle large enough to transport the driver, at which point expenses mandate gathering enough freight for a load to cover both truck and driver costs.

Drones can be made just large enough to move a specific package size. Self-driving trucks will still need highways, but smaller, flying drones delivering the “last mile” will mean decreased traffic and quicker deliveries. Customers also see the benefit of a delivery straight to them, as opposed to a street address delivery.

Simpler supply chains

Modern supply chains stretch across the globe and while that model has served society well, the system is starting to look outdated in the face of 3-D printing technology.

Most of the time and expense in supply chains stems from the need to deal with suppliers. This is made worthwhile through the tapping into of specialization and competitive benefits around the planet.

With 3-D printing, generic raw materials can be used make virtually any product fairly rapidly, and acquiring these materials calls for far less negotiation and planning than the current model. Raw inputs also do not become outdated and the quality is consistent, meaning that there’s less of a reason to track supplier performance. Since virtually all value is supplied by the 3-D printer and inputs are fairly low value, standardized goods and other inventory reduction methods will be less useful.

Putting the customer in charge

The biggest effect of 3-D printing will be the way shoppers gain more control of the supply chain.

The company is currently in command of virtually the whole supply chain: Creating new products, tracking down all components, supervising manufacturing and assembly, and finally circulating products to the retail level. The customer merely selects from available offerings. In this system, companies take a tremendous risk on how much product will sell, resulting in waste and diminished profitability.

In the supply chain of the near future, the customer places the order first, and then a regional, mostly-automated 3D printing shop generates the end product and delivers it, often via drones. The result is a greatly refined, highly reactive, and very flexible supply chain.

At ZDA, we know that supply chain systems still require talented workers for maximum efficiency. If your organization is looking for a custom supply chain staffing solution, contact us today!


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