Supply chain disruptions continue to rock the world of manufacturing, presenting real threats to productivity and having a huge impact on the bottom line of many businesses. From semiconductors and medical supply shortages to the surging costs of building materials and consumer goods – logistical issues and fluctuating, unpredictable prices are causing massive disruption to businesses of all types and sizes around the world.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the traditional manufacturing model of build, ship, and receive is no longer fit for purpose in the current climate, which experts agree isn’t going away any time soon. Add to this the well-documented global labour and skills shortages and you have the perfect storm.
The manufacturing industry has established practices for product development, production and supply chain management. Organizations that develop new products carefully follow these well-known processes and rarely take risks. However, new opportunities that arise from additive manufacturing may challenge the way things are done today.
Recent events have highlighted the rigidity of traditional manufacturing and supply chain processes. For instance, the shocking economic gridlock at the port of Los Angeles includes ships unable to unload cargo and shipping containers unable to move to their destinations. Supply chain chaos continues to unfold due to increased consumer demand and widespread warehouse staffing shortages, among other factors, leaving many people waiting for basic goods.
As more companies continue to innovate their product ideas, especially those requiring urgency and customization, 3D printing is poised to transform how game-changing product ideas are brought to life.
Global supply chains continue to face massive disruptions caused by a growing number of unforeseen events—from a traffic jam at the Suez Canal to myriad natural disasters and a more-than-a-year-long pandemic that upended sourcing, procurement and production worldwide.
Through all these unforeseen events, digital manufacturing has stepped to the forefront as an invaluable solution to meeting the escalating demands for supply chain resilience. In particular, localization and customization—as well as innovations in 3D printing materials, technologies and processes—are closing supply chain holes while speeding the delivery of quality products globally.
Below are five ways that digital manufacturing is elevating supply chain resiliency.
Shapeways, a leader in powering digital manufacturing, continues to disrupt the traditional manufacturing market through end-to-end digitization and automated workflows that lower manufacturing barriers, alleviate critical supply chain bottlenecks and speed delivery of quality products worldwide. The company’s purpose-built software, proven production capabilities and global network of certified printer, materials and manufacturing partners are transforming manufacturing while boosting supply chain resiliency.
“Global supply chains continue to face massive disruptions caused by unforeseen events—from a traffic jam at the Suez Canal to a year-long pandemic that upended sourcing, procurement and production,” said Miko Levy, chief revenue officer of Shapeways. “Digital manufacturing is the key to meeting escalating demands for supply chain resilience with unprecedented agility and flexibility.”
Recently on the 3DPod, we discussed supply chain resilience with HP’s Ramon Pastor. He mentioned that he believes that cost-driven supply chains are a thing of the past. He said that, previously, companies thought that, if they had two suppliers for a part or factories in different countries, this was enough to ensure resilience.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all learned that this is not enough. A genuinely global crisis has meant that both of a company’s supplier factories separated by oceans can be closed by the same event. What’s more, local events like a gigantic port fire in Dalian or a longshoreman strike in California can have knock-on effects that reverberate throughout the globe. At the same time, Pastor contended that we may have just experienced an unprecedented period of stability that may, in fact, be ending, bringing more geopolitical risk.
In the span of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended life around the world, and its impact grows more severe with each passing day. The swiftness and pervasiveness of the disruption is unparalleled in modern history, as entire economies grind to a halt in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Societies have been forced to quickly adapt to the disruption, in many cases turning to technologies that have long been hailed for disruptive potential of their own.
In the supply chain, additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, is finally having its moment.
Across industries, supply chains have been hit hard as factories shut down or limit production. However, none has been strained more than the medical supply chain, as demand soars for protective equipment like masks and gloves, as well as for critical life-saving equipment such as ventilators. Hospitals will likely soon be overwhelmed, with capacity and supplies pushed to their limits. In the face of this unprecedented challenge, additive manufacturing has stepped in to fill the gap.
Clothes shopping can be frustrating for people with uncommon shapes or understocked sizes; you rarely find what you want, and when you do, it rarely fits 100 percent comfortably. 3D printing may change the nature of the retail experience for that group — and for retailers who can’t always predict what their customers want.
“A lot of people are passionate about this tech,” says Fatma Baytar, an assistant professor in Cornell University’s department of fiber science and apparel design. “People are trying different ways to make it user friendly. It’s a neat idea.”
With a focus on digitization and Industry 4.0, 3D Printing Industry sought to learn more on how such technologies work with additive manufacturing, by attending the IN(3D)USTRY talk “Printing Farms & Smart Factories.”
The following includes some of the insights made by Pedro Mier, Adviser and Member of the Board of Directors at Premo Group, Ignacio Artola Guardiola, Managing Director at Accenture, Ramón Paricio Hernández, Production Manager at SEAT, and Ramón Pastor, Vice President and General Manager of HP’s Large Format Printing.
From where you order or manufacture your parts, to how they’re batched and priced, additive
3D printing has been used for prototyping for decades, but now it’s starting to creep into production process too. Even if you’re not printing things yourself, that change is going to have implications for your supply chain management.
What’s different about 3D printing and other additive manufacturing processes
When you think about 3D printing, you might visualize a filament of molten plastic being squirted, toothpaste-like, out of a nozzle, building up an object layer by layer as it solidifies.
Technically, that approach is termed fused deposition modeling but more generally we might talk of additive manufacturing, in which the layers can also be built up by fusing powdered metal or plastic (selective laser sintering) or solidifying a liquid using ultraviolet light (stereolithography or continuous liquid interface production), then lifting the finished object out of the unused powder or liquid.
The promise of 3D printing has been in the background of manufacturing conversations for years. This technology’s potential to let companies create items on demand, with minimal factory equipment and an extreme degree of customization, has kept it relevant as the necessary hardware and software have improved. The fact that there hasn’t yet been a massive supply chain disruption due to 3D printing may be leading some companies to write it off. Leaders should keep their eyes open, however – further development could change the geography of manufacturing.
The use of 3D printing as a prototyping system, a behind-the-scenes option for product development, has kept it in the manufacturing ecosystem. Learning to produce finished goods with the same speed and ease currently used for in-development items could be the turning point for 3D printing’s impact and ubiquity. Examining the marketplace Current supply chain practices such as producing a high volume of goods in financially efficient factories and shipping them en masse may become less useful in the era of widespread 3D printing. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply recently examined both the transformative potential of 3D printing and the reasons why the technology hasn’t yet had such an impact, despite being known and available for years.