How 3D printing is improving supply chain efficiency

Rapid Manufacturing Sales Manager Dave Price examines the key role 3D printing has to play in increasing supply chain efficiency.

The increased adoption of 3D printing technologies by businesses the world over has the potential to revolutionise the global supply chain. 3D printing can eliminate lots of steps from the supply chain, simplifying the often complex logistics that are a necessary evil for a great deal of organisations on a daily basis.

Shorter supply chain

The whole concept of 3D printed, on-demand manufacturing makes it possible to secure next day or even same day delivery of a new part. This not only cuts down shipping costs and delivery times considerably, but if done in-house, shortens the length of the supply chain too.

It also negates the need to use third party logistics companies for transportation. If it’s not right first time, you can have another version the next day, rather than waiting for a new version to be shipped out.

Business agility

3D printing can facilitate local manufacturing centres closer to key markets, again reducing the length and complexity of the supply chain. This in turn leads to an increased ability to respond rapidly to changing customer demands, with a shorter, more efficient supply chain often the key to maximising business agility.

The use of 3D printing for low-volume manufacturing can have a big impact on supply chains, too. With 3D printing technology on the market that’s capable of producing anything from one-offs right up to 2,000-offs, businesses can better match supply to demand by way of these smaller manufacturing runs. This paves the way for a reduction in inventory, a welcome proposition for businesses everywhere.

The Laser Lines advantage

Here at Laser Lines, our technology and service offering ensures our customers are achieving these vital supply chain efficiencies. Some customers choose to take advantage of our market-leading 3D printing bureau, the only service in the UK to feature the revolutionary full colour, multi-material, high resolution Stratasys J750 3D printer.

Other customers bring 3D printing in-house, often making full use of our successful trade-in, trade-up scheme so they’re up-to-date with the latest technology.

Take one of our customers, Wipac, for example. This designer and manufacturer of exterior lighting products for the world’s premium car makers invested in a Fortus 250mc 3D printer with us, bringing the manufacture of masks for headlight housing in-house.

Now, rather than it taking weeks to have a mask manufactured and delivered to their premises, the team can manufacture a new mask within 24 hours. This represent an incredible efficiency saving for the business, also seeing the elimination of at least two stages of the business supply chain.

Reassess and redesign

3D printing enables faster design, faster engineering and faster manufacturing, all of which result in shorter product cycles and less room to manoeuvre when it comes to bringing products to market. The potential uplift in the overall speed of trade made possible by 3D printing means that businesses will need to reassess their supply chain processes if they are to keep pace.

As 3D printing becomes a more familiar sight in manufacturing, the need to redesign existing supply chain models is imperative. Where once the pressure was on to ‘go global’ in the hunt for supply chain efficiencies, it’s now more a case of ‘go local’, albeit on a global scale.

For more information on how our 3D printing solutions can help your business, just email [email protected], or call us on 01295 672588