Is 3D printing the future of procurement?

A prominent technology expert from a leading procurement consultancy has suggested that 3D printing is…...

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A prominent technology expert from a leading procurement consultancy has suggested that 3D printing is poised to extend the supply chain right up to the point of purchase.

The comments were made by Marcell Vollmer, Chief Digital Officer with a large procurement platform. He believes that a scenario in which procurement networks and digital manufacturers are able to reach and serve customers where they shop is no longer a futuristic daydream. It’s fast becoming a present reality.

In Future of Sourcing magazine, he writes: “Through cloud-based platforms, companies and their suppliers gain broad visibility into each other’s interconnected operations and, with it, the ability to collaborate on design, production and innovation. Out of these digital networks have emerged new operating models in which 3D printing can bring the supply chain right to a retailer’s doorstep.”

He cites the example of a shattered smartphone screen. The day is fast approaching when customers will no longer have the frustration of discovering that their retailer is out of stock. Instead, if a connected 3D printer sat behind the counter hooked up to the retailer’s supply chain, a new screen could be printed there and then and the phone repaired.

3D printing, in Vollmer’s estimations, has the capacity to make a positive impact on supply relationship management and sourcing savings. Integrating these machines into the procurement network will allow managers to link their design, sourcing, production and procurement processes for joint management. They can facilitate collaboration on production decisions and allow for alterative suggestions, obtain pricings from several suppliers and enable the providers themselves to innovate and grow their businesses.

For example, suppliers will be able to distinguish themselves as industry leaders via advanced technical capabilities, collaborating on early design to allow parts manufacture at optimal pricing. In other words, cost reduction gets built into the supply chain. They’ll also be able to provide manufacturing as a service.

The ultimate effect? Consumers entering their local store get to meet all of its suppliers in one place and time.

Steve Trainor

Steve has over 28 years of success as CPO, MD and Procurement BPO leader in a range of industries. Steve is COO at Odesma, responsible for Odesma’s delivery capability & infrastructure.

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