3D Supply Chain at CSCMP

I traveled with Liberty Advisor Group this week to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals annual conference in Denver, CO. In a surreal juxtaposition, the pot-centric CHAMPS tradeshow took place at the same time. Something to look forward to: at the end of this post I'll share the world's most impressive "glass art."

I helped Liberty set up a booth complete with two 3D printers: a 3D Systems Cubify and my homemade Ultimaker. We talked with numerous supply chain professionals from companies ranging from Haliburton to the Home Depot and engaged in lively discussion on how the 3D supply chain will impact how goods are transported.

Most people we met were blown away by the array of 3D printed finished goods we had on-hand. A recurring theme was the assumption that 3D printing is only for prototyping, not production. I mentioned my surprise at the lack of awareness of 3D printing to one professional, who retorted, "knowledge of new technology only reaches the supply chain world after a three-year delay."

3D printing is a tremendous transformation that, like any disruption, will create winners and losers. Borders missed the internet and withered away. Some firms will make the transition to a 3D supply chain where products reach distribution centers through digital transmission. The distribution center of the future uses 3D printers to manufacture objects on-demand. Other firms will slowly perish over the oncoming decades as they stubbornly ignore lean manufacturing and mass customization.

I also had the chance to hear the keynote by Peter Carlsson, Tesla Motor's VP of Supply Chain. Peter noted that tooling lead times used to be 14-16 weeks. Then Chinese companies like Foxconn came along and brought lead times down to 3-4 weeks. Now Peter is working very had to reduce tooling lead times to a week or less. Peter and I had a great conversation afterwards on how 3D printing tooling can reduce lead times for injection molding.

As promised, I'll leave you with a few photos from the weed conference. Exhibitors at CSCMP could learn a thing or two about presentation from the CHAMPS folks.

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