Local sourcing is hot – and not just for food.
Manufacturing on demand (MOD) using 3-D printing technology is transforming manufacturing industries by allowing a wide range of businesses to produce physical products at the point of sale or use:
- Dentists are creating personally fitted dental caps and crowns for same-visit installation.
- Boeing is producing complex air ducts for aircraft electronics.
- United Technologies is planning to “print” intricate parts for aircraft systems, greatly reducing manufacturing costs.
This is just the beginning. The Wall Street Journal sees broader use just around the corner:
- Car-part stores may manufacture parts on site, dramatically reducing their inventories.
- The Defense Department may make replacement parts in the field for military deployments, rather than ship them across oceans.
- Entrepreneurs will be able to ramp new products without the startup cost of a factory or relying on third parties.
- Boeing is even considering building airplane wings with massive 3D printers.
JIT on steroids
MOD is just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing on steroids. JIT positions pre-manufactured components in an assembly process to reduce inventories and shorten cycle times. But those parts must be manufactured in advance, stocked, and shipped. JIT is only as good as a production forecast.
MOD puts manufacturing right at the point of use. No need to stock, no need to forecast. Make it when you need it. It’s a godsend for any business with high inventory or logistics costs, or unpredictable demand.
Manufacturing movies on demand
That’s why the content industry is adopting MOD – not with 3-D printers, but with on-site production of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, and even bound books.
Take the DVD movie market, for example. Thousands of titles, with thousands of outlets. With MOD, retailers are able to offer any title in their catalog, from any store, without the cost and risk of stocking them in every location.
MOD helps further back in the supply chain as well. Volume disc manufacturers (much like book publishers) can’t afford a second or third stamping of every movie, yet consumers continue to buy their titles in drips and drabs for decades. Rather than batches of 100,000 discs, MOD gives volume manufacturers the ability to make as many discs as they need for each title, whenever there’s demand.
Making things when and where they are needed is a trend that’s here to stay – for food, physical products and even entertainment content.