Supply Chain Change or will 3D printers end it all together?

When one reads the logistics and supply chain magazines, blogs or social media comments, one sees many thoughts. Words like “the end of warehouses”, “preemptive distribution”, and “3D Printers” causing the demise the supply chain, keep flashing at you. By being dramatic the creators of this information hope to catch your attention. What does all this mean to the organization and its success?  In supply chain, after “change” is what we do.

Supply Chain and Logistics has the word “change” imbedded in its existence. Markets change. Suppliers change. Production changes occur.  There is both small change and big change. In the course of my career, industrial transportation has changed from a regulated industry to deregulated one, for cost center to a business optimization strategy, from a stand alone silo to an integral part of the supplier chain.   To deal with this level of change, a solely internal focus to the organization will not work. The world of ideas can provide an approach and a context to deal with a changing world.

As managers we know that any change requires energy, time, money and commitment.There is cost efficiency one there is not constant change in the organization.  So it is important to spend the time educating one self about what is going on. Yes, healthy skepticism is good.  With that there is a context so you can understand the changes in the marketplace and the world. Then you will have information to determine is change is worthwhile.

PS: Will 3D printers end the supply chain?  3D printers make plastics articles from software.  Jay Leno uses a 3D printer to make car parts for his extensive personal car fleet.  If the technology becomes cost effective it will have its effect on simple product lines. Really, this not want supply chains  in modern companies do most often anyway.  The trend in products is for them to become more complex because that is what the market place is demanding. Supply chain is really part of how an organization deals with that complexity, so it is not likely to disappear any time to soon.



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