3D Printing And IoT Usher In The Next Industrial Revolution

Johannes Papst

3D printing and Internet of Things technologies can help stop revenue disruptions and make companies more lean, resilient, and agile.

Many 20th-century companies enjoyed expansion, but they also suffered from a lack of “beginning-to-end connectedness.” If you think about industry, early farming communities lacked modern technology. They succeeded through direct human interaction. Farmers grew crops, brought them to market, and dealt with key stakeholders on a personal level. Mass distribution helped create a disconnect between the source and the end consumer. That lack of connection opens the door for leaner outfits to disrupt your operations. Business models that maintain strong start-to-finish connectedness are able to gain market share.

Internet of Things thinking provides competitive edge

Consider, for example, a pair of competing alternative newspapers in New England. The two companies went head-to-head at the turn of the century. One outfit grew to prominence in Boston. As its war chest swelled, the company expanded into Providence, RI, and Portland, Maine. The corporation was able to hold off competitors for years until it lost its agility.

Meanwhile, the small Rhode Island alternative publication used a lean business model to compete. It focused on connecting with clients and consumers. It disrupted the revenue streams of the established corporation with far fewer resources. The newspaper tapped team members with distribution responsibilities. Writers, sales personnel, editors, and even graphic designers were required to replenish distribution points. The larger outfit outsourced distribution. It sacrificed connectedness to clients and consumers in a cost-saving measure.

The smaller outfit electronically connected its sales staff to graphic designers and produced advertisements for on-the-spot client approval. This early form of Internet of Things (IoT) thinking linked various facets of the company in real time. The technology-based thinking shortened approval times and increased revenue. In contrast, the larger outfit relied on traditional 20th-century methods. Slow interdepartmental ad submission and approvals took up valuable sales time. Corrections and changes between clients and the design department were also tedious. The small company’s boots-on-the-ground approach blended human-based methods with IoT ideas.

In a radical move, the small outfit took down its Internet presence. The strategy forced readers to locate hard copies to learn about news and events. They became farmers, in a sense. But the faster-moving newspapers demonstrated the product’s growing popularity to clients. Advertising businesses also acted as distribution points. The company then restored the website with a downloadable, or 3D-like, printable page-by-page replica of the paper product. It delivers the final product to devices by rethinking its web presence in IoT terms.

The more powerful competitor stayed with a popular web design, but the standard site failed at efficiency and didn’t service its clients’ advertising needs. The lean, agile newspaper now controls the market, and the big corporation folded. Industry insiders saw this as a David vs. Goliath competition. As we all know, David’s lean slingshot carried the day.

The out-of-the-box thinking used by the upstart paper can be taken much further today. Merging IoT data collection and 3D printing can help organizations become lean and agile.

3D printing makes companies lean and efficient

In IDC’s report, “The IoT Imperative for Discrete Manufacturers: Automotive, Aerospace and Defense, High Tech, and Industrial Machinery,” the market analysis firm discusses the use of resilient, lean, 3D printing. The report points out that the automotive industry can improve its agility by shortening delivery times for parts. In-house or nearby 3D printing helps cut wait times and makes companies more efficient. In the aerospace sector, grounded or delayed airplanes cause revenue losses and dissatisfied clients. 3D printing technology can reduce delays due to part shortfalls.

High-tech and industrial machinery sectors follow the same line of reasoning. The benefits of 3D printing can strengthen a company and protect it from disruption. For every Goliath-like success, there is a David-like competitor looking gain market share.

IoT and 3D = Industry 4.0

Advanced digital manufacturing resources such as 3D printing comprise what many are calling Industry 4.0. These resources can be coupled with IoT data collection to enable advanced tracking. Business News Weekly recently published a story, “Industry 4.0: How the Internet of Things is Revolutionizing Manufacturing,” which describes this scenario as “the next Industrial Revolution.” Fortune magazine recently reported that HP Inc. plans to go big in the 3D market. HP CEO Dion Weisler believes 3D will spur the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” But without IoT-based connectedness, companies may suffer revenue disruptions from technology-smart outfits.

The potential of 3D printing has captured people’s imaginations. It will make companies leaner and more efficient. But that looks a lot like previous industrial revolutions, which lacked beginning and end connectedness. Blending IoT data collection and digital manufacturing can make businesses high-tech farmers. That position of strength can either make you a market-climbing David, or a Goliath with a bigger shield.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value: Accelerating Digital Transformation in Industrial Machinery and Components. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Johannes Papst

About Johannes Papst

Johannes Papst, solution manager for SAP, focuses on aligning SAP solutions with today´s business needs especially in the Industrial Machinery and Components Industry. He has over 20 years of experience with software for the discrete manufacturing industry. His main area of focus is manufacturing processes and working will small and medium businesses.