3D Printing And Supply Chain Management

In Technology by admin


3D printing is useful in several sectors by providing latest models of supply chains, reducing the costs and risks involved. 3D printing follows a process known as stereo-lithography wherein products are fabricated by using printers which places the materials as layers one on top of another. Another method is sintering which uses lasers to produce the finished material by burning them. The design is created by using CAD software or an individual laser scan and the image is then passed on to the printer. This image is finally produced using plastics, metal or composites.

The basics apart, 3D printing has immense usage in supply chain management because companies are focusing on reducing costs and improved customer satisfaction. The latest technologies support numerous new models of supply chain like streamlined logistics model, customer managed inventory, 3D printing hub, home 3D printing etc. These latest technologies are either partially adopted or fully adopted by varying industries and affect the capability and cost of supply chains significantly. Installation of printer at client sites, reduce the time for delivery and increase constructive work time. When the inventory levels are reduced, it leads to reduction in warehousing needs and in turn, simplification of supply chain networks. Supply chains tend to respond rapidly to changes and as a result, will enable companies to respond to smaller product life cycles. Products become cheaper to create and users will get more options for customization etc.

Such changes caused by effective supply chain management have high positive impact on start-up companies and small firms because the cost to set it up and manufacture products will be significantly reduced and will be directly proportional to the minimum and economic order quantities. There is less need for logistic costs as well, since there is no need for shipping or third-party warehousing management. An added benefit of placing printers at foreign sites of the company is that, there is large reduction in import duties, custom delays and landed costs. But the downside of this technology is that it is still getting matured and things like basic raw materials required for printers are still extremely expensive and so are the making charges of a finished product. The production speed may also vary depending on the complexity of the item being printed and even after finishing the printing process, the finish is rough and as of now, only one material can be used in this process.

By getting a clear idea about inventory and sorting it into segments properly, companies will be in a better position to reduce inventory levels costs of warehousing. This is possible by slowly moving the stock keeping units and the easiest parts in their bill of materials from physical mode to virtual mode and printing them when required. This will adversely affect the business of logistic companies, warehousing companies and transportation industry though. There will be increased competition because the companies that practice 3D printing will develop production cycles which will be of shorter duration and clients will expect faster delivery time. In short, supply chain management models provide ample opportunities for both suppliers and clients to have shorter delivery times and optimized supply chains.


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