How 3D Printing is Reshaping Traditional Manufacturing in the Supply Chain

The introduction of three-dimensional printing (3D printing) has been altering traditional manufacturing procedures and logistics operations. The worldwide market for 3D printers has shown rapid growth, changing from prototyping to manufacturing applications across automotive and life sciences sectors.

According to a report, the 3D printing industry is expected to grow into a $4.4 billion industry by 2020, up from $1 billion in 2014. This development is spurred on by the affordability of this form of technology for purposes of multiple customization and low volume production.

A Gartner research revealed that, in 2018, only 38% of employees working within the supply chain used the 3D technology, while about half of them wanted to incorporate it into their systems within two years. However, it was with the outbreak of COVID-19 that its usage turned teeming. Users realized that it was possible to use 3D printing as an insurance chain, which eventually also became the biggest sales point for the technology. Their knowledge about reduced costs, improved efficiency, and enhanced customization capabilities has made supply chain professionals use this technology as ‘supply chain insurance’ during tough times. The technology has allowed them to come up with customized digital inventories that ensure there are no stockouts at all.

Nowadays, the technology is also being applied to managing inventory across the supply chain and logistics industries. Aviation giants like Airbus use parts made through 3D-printing technologies, thereby reducing operations costs while maintaining product quality.

Even boat manufacturers are using the technology to make replacement parts such as metal fans, propellers, and gears for ships and offshore installations. In fact, almost every other component that can damage or hobble ships and airplanes is now being made through 3D printing.

It is evident that the adoption of 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing processes and practices, thus making it possible to create custom digital products at a 100% availability rate. Beyond merely streamlining inventory management in supply chains, 3D printing technology offers benefits that enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance overall supply chain performance.

A broader list of advantages goes as below:

Decrease Inventory Costs: Companies can use 3D printing to manufacture items when they are needed. This negates the need for holding stocks; hence, the elimination of overhead on them reduces overproduction and allows the items to be produced only upon demand, thereby lowering maintenance costs.

Improving Supply Chain Efficiency: By employing 3D printing companies, we can improve product quality, minimize delivery timeframes, and reduce downtime. This will help increase both product quality and effectiveness by reducing production-to-production cycle times.

Customization and Personalization: The use of 3D printing makes customization and personalization easier, allowing businesses to offer tailor-made solutions to customers. This change not only increases customer satisfaction but also reduces the risk of completing the wrong order, thus reducing returns and customer satisfaction.

Hybrid Inventory Approach: Using a hybrid inventory approach through physical and digital stock can provide greater flexibility in managing inventory levels. Companies can hold some digital items without them being physically present until demand is there, thus reducing storage costs and improving inventory efficiency.

In conclusion, integrating 3D printing offers cost-saving opportunities, increased product performance, lead time reduction, and the ability to adopt more nimble and attractive designs. With proper utilization of this technology, firms can improve their inventory process, minimize waste, and satisfy customers’ requirements better.

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