Encouraged by opportunities for greater customization, less waste, and more localized manufacturing and delivery, 3D printing will impact logistics by adding new diversity to manufacturing strategies. Some companies may stop traditional fabrication, but most will combine 3D printing with mass production techniques. Logistics providers can orchestrate complex hybrid manufacturing networks and utilize networks of 3D printers to offer new logistics services.
Key Developments & Implications
3D printing has become a trusted technology across various sectors, from printing of customized pills and medical devices to the manufacturing of aviation components. As the technology continues to develop and, more importantly, overcomes challenges surrounding liability and certification, the 3D printing market is expected to grow tremendously with some estimates projecting the industry to be worth $550 billion by 2025. 3D printing will be highly applicable in areas such as spare parts production and will significantly impact related logistics services and volumes. A comprehensive ‘dematerialization’ of physical flows of manufactured goods is, however, still far off.
Regional logistics networks will become more complex with an increasing shift from off-shoring to near-shoring strategies, impacting regional/local supply chains and distribution. The varying degree to which industries apply 3D printing will make it necessary to carefully evaluate the impact on a company’s supply chain strategy.
B2B 3D printing services can enable new logistics services especially in aftermarket supply chains (the warehousing and distribution of spare parts). Instead of managing multiple warehouses stacked with spare parts that are typically rarely ordered, logistics providers can set up a global 3D printing infrastructure coupled with a software database of digital models. Parts can then be printed only on demand at the nearest 3D printing facility (e.g., airport hub) and be delivered to the right location. Enabling parts to be manufactured on demand ensures speed of delivery, reduces lead times, and cuts inventory costs.
Digital logistics service agents embedded as conversational interfaces in smart home devices (e.g., Amazon Alexa) can assist customers with real-time updates on the status of package deliveries, enable rescheduling, and notify of any delays. Interacting through voice allows users to seamlessly access logistics data. This can result in reduced customer support costs, increased user attention, and wider adoption of IoT (particularly among the elderly or disabled).
Questions answered in this report:
- What is the current state of 3D printing and how is this technology being applied?
- What competitive advantages can 3D printing offer to your organization?
- What are the crucial success factors for the widespread adoption of 3D printing?
- What are the opportunities for 3D printing in your future supply chain?
Talk to an Expert
Senior Innovation Manager, Trend Research
DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation
Ben Gesing is a global innovation leader with 7+ years of experience developing technical solutions in the logistics, telecommunications, and consumer electronics industry. Today he leads the Trend Research activities at the DHL Innovation Center near Bonn, Germany. He and his team are responsible for shaping the overall innovation agenda at Deutsche Post DHL Group through producing industry trend reports and piloting cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics in live logistics operations together with startups.