UPS Uses 3D Printing To Deliver On-Demand Individualized Products [VIDEO]

Hans Thalbauer

Sneakers. Prosthetics. Even food. Organizations today can create virtually anything with 3D printing.

This technology isn’t only a godsend for customers, who have developed insatiable appetites for individualized products. It’s a key differentiator for manufacturers that must quickly react to meet constantly shifting consumer demands.

Seventy-one percent of U.S. manufacturers are currently using 3D printing in one way or another, according to a recent Manufacturing Institute study. Most use it to develop product prototypes, while 7% of companies use it to create end products.

Parcel delivery company UPS is using the technology in an entirely different way: offering 3D printing as a service through its network of stores.

The 3D printing story at UPS

In a newly released research report, Individualized Products: The Burning Platform for Future Competitiveness, SCM World highlights UPS’ foray into the world of 3D printing. The company began this initiative in 2013, launching a pilot program across six of its U.S. locations. A year later, UPS extended the program, offering 3D printing capabilities in more than 60 of its stores throughout the United States.

UPS recently partnered with Fast Radius, an “on-demand direct digital 3D printing service provider,” to further upgrade its services, from offering distributed, light-manufacturing capabilities to providing access to industrial-grade 3D printers. Customers can visit the Fast Radius website to place orders for the manufacturing and distribution of individualized products. The mass production of thousands of identical parts can be handled from Fast Radius’ industrial-grade 3D printing facility in Louisville, Kentucky. One-off parts can be produced from local UPS stores. Same-day shipping is available for certain orders.

The on-demand network is intended to benefit a wide range of customers, including:

  • Manufacturers aiming to reduce low-selling on-site inventory
  • Manufacturers that typically specialize in short production runs
  • Manufacturers and retailers of custom/semi-custom goods
  • Industrial designers and engineers in need of rapidly developed product prototypes
  • Entrepreneurs, startups, and manufacturers with little or no access to 3D printers

The secret of UPS’ success: Running live

In order to support a network capable of meeting customers’ demands for individualized products, an organization needs to operate as a Live Business. This means having the ability to sense, respond, learn, adapt, and predict to create value in the moment.

UPS has made this a reality by partnering with SAP to digitize its existing supply-chain operations. By using an end-to-end solution, UPS can gain access to real-time data, enabling the company to:

  • Determine the financial viability of 3D printing versus traditional manufacturing
  • Route on-demand manufacturing orders from production to delivery
  • Help manufacturers get products to market more quickly

“By bringing together the on-demand manufacturing and logistics expertise of UPS and the extended supply chain leadership of SAP,” said Bernd Leukert, a member of the executive board at SAP for Products & Innovations, “we can enable direct digital manufacturing and an on-demand industrial manufacturing network that connects from manufacturing floor to the customer door.”

Learn more about this partnership and the recently announced initiative to transform industrial 3D printing into a seamless direct manufacturing process.

Is your business ready to run live?

3D printing is revolutionizing traditional manufacturing and redefining how people view the industrial supply chain. As demand for individualized products continues to rise, the use of 3D printing will grow with it. Research firm IDC estimates the market for 3D printing will soar to $26.7 billion in 2019, up from $11 billion in 2015, an annual growth rate of 27%.

In order to fulfill your buyers’ desires for customized products, your organization needs to transform its existing strategies and reimagine its current business models. Traditional manufacturing and supply chain capabilities will no longer do.

Your business must possess the agility to respond to changing consumer demands. It needs to be fully digitized in the way it designs, produces, and services its products. Its products must be connected, so it can deliver, monitor, update, and service your items digitally.

Only then will your business be a truly Live Business – and only then can you begin delivering on the promise of product customization.

Interested in learning more about the 3D printing revolution? Visit this website. Explore how your organization can benefit from additive manufacturing, from increasing the cost-effectiveness of small production and prototype runs to satisfying customers with same-day delivery.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is globally responsible for solution management and the go-to-market functions for SAP digital supply chain solutions and the SAP Leonardo portfolio of Internet of Things solutions. In this role, he is engaged in creative dialogues with businesses and operations worldwide, addressing customer needs and introducing innovative business processes, including the vision of creating a live business environment for everyone working in operations. Hans has more than 17 years with SAP and is based out of Palo Alto, CA, USA. He has held positions in development, product and solution management, and the go-to-market organization. Hans holds a degree in Business Information Systems from the University Vienna, Austria.