If you think 3D printing has no bearing on the supply chain, think again. Given the technology’s enormous impact on production processes, organizations today must adapt, completely transforming their existing supply chain operations.
Dan Gilmore, editor at Supply Chain Digest (SCD), recently chatted with Hans Thalbauer, senior vice president of extended supply chain at SAP, to discuss the current state of 3D printing, product customization, and more.
Here are several highlights, edited for length, from the fascinating Q&A:
Dan Gilmore (DG): What’s your assessment of where we’re at with [3D printing]? Is this really something that’s out there in the future, or is it something that’s really starting to gain some critical mass now?
Hans Thalbauer (HT): I see so many companies around the world who adopt 3D printing in their manufacturing process or distributed manufacturing environment. In different industries, of course, 3D printing is being used for different purposes. If you look in aerospace and defense, for example, it’s a part of the manufacturing process. When it comes to retail, it’s about providing a product that’s individualized for an end consumer.
DG: New Balance is using this technology as part of their customization process. I think you have some insight into what they’re doing. What can you share with us today?
HT: Think about getting on a treadmill. You start running. Your feet are being measured, and in the back of the store, a 3D printer is printing the insole for your shoe. That’s an amazing thing. It’s individualized. It’s personalized. All with the goal to provide the perfect shoe for the end consumer.
DG: Does [3D printing] put some different requirements on the capabilities or functionalities a software provider needs to provide?
HT: Absolutely. It’s not good enough anymore to think about the traditional way of producing and delivering goods. We need to have an environment which allows companies to get end-to-end visibility. You need to have an environment which allows you to manage these processes in real time.
Watch the entire segment, part of SCD’s Supply Chain News Makers Video Series, below:
Want more insight on 3D printing? See Why UPS Believes 3D Printing Will Shake Up The Supply Chain.