The rise of 3D printing doesn’t spell serious trouble for mass-production, but spare-parts logistics may potentially transform the supply chain, according to the latest DHL trend report: “3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains.” Instead, the DHL study said it anticipates that 3D printing will fulfill a “complementary” role to manufacturing, as it grows to an estimated US$490 billion by 2025.
DHL predicted that customer demand will prompt an increase in individualized parts manufacturing and product postponement services, which “could see manufacturing and assembly divided into stages with regional or locally located printers involved in the final production. Both would require completely new supply-chain strategies.”
End-of-runway services, defined as “sector-specific service offerings and integrated return-and-repair services,” would move production – via 3D printing – to the transport nexus, enabling fast production and dispatch of parts. This trend, DHL found, is likely to develop to the point at which replacement parts are manufactured en route to the final delivery.
“As manufacturers adapt their production processes, new opportunities and challenges to the supply chain will be created,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president, DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation.
DHL’s report doesn’t delve too deeply into the disruptive potential of 3D printing. However, another report cited by Integra Core found that as much as 41 percent of air cargo and 37 percent of ocean container shipments are threatened by the growth of 3D technology.
DHL is more sanguine, explaining that, while disruptive, “some product ranges may be produced entirely on demand through 3D printing, and new regional and last-mile logistics solutions will be required.” The latter scenario can just as easily be viewed as an opportunity for the air cargo business, and the Germany-based integrator clearly sees it that way.