How Will 3D Printing Impact Order Fulfillment?
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="256"] A working 3D printer (Photo credit: 3dilla)[/caption] The prophecies and predictions for supply chain management in 2014 have all been published by now, giving professionals in our industry a good idea of where we're going in the next twelve months. But an influential new technology was notable by its absence, that of 3D printing. Right now the idea of 3D printers in every home is still a very futuristic notion. Although the products exist - in fact, some were just unveiled last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - the high price will limit early purchases to technology enthusiasts and affluent hobbyists. The potential is there, however, to significantly disrupt the way physical products are made and delivered. This will impact order fulfillment and logistics, if not this year then almost certainly in the few that follow.
Order Fulfillment in the Age of 3D PrintingMuch depends not only on how the technology develops, but how consumers choose to adopt it. Where people spend dollars will influence the companies that make 3D printers to focus on certain priority areas. Some of the questions that arise are:
- Will home 3D printing be popular? Do people want to cut out all of the steps in between and print their own products, or will a professional, heavy duty printing device be required to produce items of a suitable quality?
- What are the limitations of 3D printers? Is there a point at which consumers will prefer a product that is made by traditional manufacturing processes, even when a 3D printed version is quicker to obtain.
- Which industries are most likely to be early adopters? Where will the trend spread first?