As customers, we often want our orders delivered today, not tomorrow, and at the destination of our choosing. And our personal experiences with e-commerce have actually influenced the way we purchase for businesses, setting the bar high for companies in the manufacturing industry and forcing them to toggle between supply chain efficiency and optimization and market resilience and risk. This balance is difficult to achieve, and challenges typically arise on six fronts:
Today, product lifecycles are becoming shorter. Customers increasingly demand personalized products of the best quality and at the lowest price, and they want to receive said products with lightning-fast shipping. This means today’s manufacturers must trade standardization and maximum productivity for flexibility, exclusivity, and extra services – all while maintaining their margins. To do so successfully, manufacturers will have to leverage flexible logistics and maintain control over both internal and external flows of goods.
2. Meeting Paradoxical Conditions
The combination of fast production and delivery at the lowest cost requires manufacturers to manage contradictory tasks. To produce and deliver as efficiently as possible, manufacturers want to hold a minimum inventory of both the product and its spare parts to meet consumer demand, while also having the ability to cost-effectively scale operations to absorb sales peaks.
3. Achieving Speed and Flexibility
To guarantee fast delivery, companies are forced to use small, frequent shipments, which is often foreign to manufacturers who traditionally rely on inexpensive, bulk shipping. In addition, manufacturers have discovered that to meet their customers’ and supply chain partners’ demands, they must rely on a multitude of logistics partners to ensure fast, custom deliveries.
4. Avoiding Disruption
Even the smallest hiccup in supply chain logistics can have a serious impact on supply chain continuity and the company itself. For example, has the delivery of one part for the assembly of a phone been delayed due to political tensions, a president’s tweet, a virus outbreak, flooding, or a flat tire? This delay can cause the production process to come to a standstill – damaging the brand, upsetting customers, and influencing share prices.
5. Improving Transparency
The emergence of e-commerce and new sales platforms is rapidly transforming manufacturing companies into direct suppliers, making logistics exponentially complex. Manufacturers need a supply chain ecosystem that monitors and automatically manages a large number of variables of both in-house logistics operations as well as the operations of supply chain partners. Therefore, having technology in place to harness and analyze real-time data is critical. Fragmented and outdated systems that only show historical data are no longer adequate. Companies need to know what is taking place in real time, and therefore digital transformation is a must for manufacturers to achieve agility and flexibility.
6. Managing Spare Parts
Traditionally, spare parts are stored on warehouse shelves following production alongside the components used in original production assemblies. In many cases, these parts sit for years “just in case,” and an out-of-production original assembly can become fully obsolete once parts are no longer in stock, leaving owners out of luck and forcing them to reinvest in wholly new products.
Compete with New Technology
3D printing helps manufacturers overcome these challenges and build cost-effective, productive supply chains that operate with unprecedented flexibility. Three key benefits of 3D printing include:
1. Reducing Transportation Costs
3D printing reduces the distance a product or spare part will travel, improving delivery times, decreasing transportation costs, and reducing carbon footprints. For example, because 3D printers create a product from start to finish, designers can design a product in one country and then email it to another country in preparation for production. There’s no requirement to create prototypes that move from factory to factory, or to move products from factory to DC using long distance carriers.
2. Minimizing Inventory Costs
3D printing reduces inventories and the associated capital tied up in warehousing, which is particularly beneficial for the production and storage of spare parts. Inventory becomes digital, and the warehouse is “shelved” in favor of an on-demand production facility located near the source of need, including in facilities across the world from the original supplier.
3. Eliminating Batch Manufacturing
3D printing eliminates the need for tools and molds, which means production doesn’t have to be in batches to be economical. It delivers an agile development process for physical parts and has the ability to accelerate the production and the time it takes to get to market. This shortens product lifecycles as well as provides a faster and on-demand customer experience.
3D Printing and Parcel Shipping Technology: Game-Changing Trends in Manufacturing
The impact of 3D printing on the global structure of supply chains will be disruptive. And when manufacturers combine 3D printing with advanced parcel shipping management, they can quickly forego their bulk shipping roots by manufacturing small volumes of products and/or spare parts on demand, and then cost-effectively ship with parcel carriers based on cost, speed, and service. In other words, they can connect to any customer, anywhere – at a palatable price.
To learn more about how you can leverage game-changing trends in manufacturing, download the e-book: Do Nothing to Create Shipping Efficiencies, and Cost of Delivery Will Automatically Increase.