The impact of 3D printing on the supply-chain

16 Jul, 2021

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The impact of 3D printing on the supply-chain

We see concrete examples every day proving how vulnerable supply chains can be. To face these issues and keep your business running and growing, supply chain resilience can be an interesting strategy to look at.

With globalization, companies are now used to dealing with manufacturers all around the world. While it can be interesting on a financial level, this system is also increasing the potential risks they are facing. Some can be minor such as production delays, a punctual drop in quality, a problem during transport, or more serious such as natural disasters. We see concrete examples every day proving how vulnerable supply chains can be. To face these issues and keep your business running and growing, supply chain resilience can be an interesting strategy to look at. 

What is supply-chain resilience?

A resilient supply chain is quickly responding and recovering from costly disruptions. It has the ability to face risk, thanks to a high level of flexibility and anticipation. Resistance and recovery are really the main subjects to take care of for supply chains. So why is supply chain resilience so important? Running a business and manufacturing products inevitably expose you to risks, and the least you could do, to avoid losing time and money, is to be prepared to face different kinds of risks. 

Indeed, risk management is an essential part of supply chain resilience. A resilient supply chain won’t be affected by the malfunction of an element that should’ve normally paralyzed it. It means you should be prepared to face issues related to your inventory, transportation issues as well as difficulties faced by your supplier.

COVID-19 and its impact on supply-chain

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of our supply chains. Difficulties to build stock of parts that are urgently needed, transportation issues, and the difficulties arising from closed borders created numerous challenges for businesses. It is a fact: our manufacturing systems are not built to face dramatic situations such as a pandemic, but this situation really showed some of the main manufacturing issues faced by companies. 

According to the  Supply Chain Resilience Report 2020, this pandemic was the most important threat to global chains. Businesses were more affected by this event than trade sanctions, natural disasters, and cyberattacks combined. Indeed, up to 60% of people who answered this survey said that the coronavirus directly disrupted their manufacturing supply chain. After experiencing this, 96% of companies are planning to build resilience into their supply chain. Resiliency became a big subject.

During this period, some relevant questions were asked: How can we produce urgently needed goods or equipment without access to traditional methods? How can we get adapted medical equipment when and where it is needed? 

Turning to a solution shortening and simplifying traditional supply chains is possible thanks to additive manufacturing. If it’s effective during a crisis, it also can bring advantages while being implemented in the long-term.

Is additive manufacturing a solution for supply chain resilience?

Supply chain resilience is the ability to be prepared for unexpected risk events. Implementing additive manufacturing could help you be more resilient, add reactivity to the market demand, reduce lead time, and allow just-in-time manufacturing.

  • Optimize your time to market

Businesses can easily face shortages while facing an unpredicted event. While using technologies such as injection molding, it takes 8-10 weeks on average to create a mold, depending on its complexity and cavitations. Whereas, with additive manufacturing, you will speed up your manufacturing process, instead of developing molds during entire weeks before launching the manufacturing process, 3D printing projects take days instead of months. 

  • Just-in-time manufacturing

Just In Time manufacturing gives the opportunity to receive parts exactly when you need them, which is particularly useful in case of emergency. This ads flexibility to your business to face unpredictable demands or events and offers you a new way to focus your resources on fulfilling only what you are going to be paid for, rather than wasting energy, time, and budget on building stock. 

Thanks to 3D printing, Just In Time manufacturing is accessible to all kinds of businesses. Once your 3D file is ready, you can manufacture it right away. 

  • Flexible manufacturing is the key

While facing unpredicted issues, new solutions have to be found. Thanks to 3D printing technologies, flexibility can be implemented in supply-chains. What happens when you urgently need new parts? When you can rely on your traditional storage system? When certain parts are defective or on recall?

While using 3D printing, it is possible to get exactly the amount of parts you need, different variations of the same part, or get small or medium volumes without minimum order quantities.

Finding a reliable manufacturer

The right manufacturer is essential for your business, on which the growth of your company can depend. This manufacturer will help you optimize your supply chain, it will help you satisfy your customers and be a reliable partner for your business. You will have to find a manufacturer that will help you deliver your products on time, helping to establish your company as a real reference. 

Local manufacturing can also be suitable to avoid transportation issues, and avoid having a manufacturing partner which is located on the other side of the globe.

Is additive manufacturing for you?

Considering additive manufacturing for more flexibility: just in time manufacturing, more adaptability, scaled production. More flexibility means you will be able to continue your manufacturing even when facing issues. It won’t paralyze your whole manufacturing process anymore!

Additive manufacturing might not be an adapted manufacturing solution for your business, but it could be the perfect solution while facing an unpredicted event affecting your process.

You can also think about implementing this manufacturing technology into your strategy. Identify which parts of your manufacturing process take too much time. When you’re running a business, efficiency is key to achieve great results. Thus, you need to configure your production line in order to maximize its productivity.

Using an online 3D printing service

Benefit from interesting lead times and access to a wide range of technologies with an online 3D printing service such as Sculpteo. Allow your business to be more adaptable and scale your production. Additive manufacturing, thanks to new advanced technologies and materials, will help you is meet your goals while adapting to your requirements and all of your constraints.

Adding flexibility to your manufacturing process has never been easier: upload your 3D file, get an instant quote and receive your part in a few days.