In the past, we’ve discussed how drones and RFID technology are set to impact the logistics industry. These technologies, along with Amazon Robotics (previously Kiva Systems), would have been considered speculative science fiction less than decade ago. These technologies are either only a few years from revolutionizing the supply chain landscape, or have already begun transforming it.

The many logistics, business, and technology articles on the subjects make the three seem like the industry is only weeks away while ignoring some very real gains this past year in some other potentially game changing technology.

For this week, we’d like to discuss the potential impact of things such as mass produced cheap 3D printers, and uberfication. These two innovations are quickly bridging the gap from speculative opinion pieces to best practice!

Mass produced 3D/4D Printers

So this first piece of technology is much closer to being a reality as working 3D/4D printers already exist and are being used in a limited capacity across multiple industries and creative novelties.

This isn’t surprising. The technology is almost four decades old and for most of that time it has been prohibitively expensive with many items produced in that time being little more than talking pieces.

It is only recently that companies such as Nike, Gillette, and Mattel have started investing heavily in 3D printing with even Google joining in with a plans to mass produce 3D-printed smart phones.

With some commercial 3D printers now retailing for less than $100, and newer models such as Hewlett Packard’s Multi Jet Fusion on the horizon however, it won’t be long before the technology starts becoming a viable alternative to traditional shipping.


In the time span of 3 short years, the international transportation network company of Uber Technologies Inc. went from launching its app to having an estimated worth of $50 billion.

It did this by not necessarily offering a new product or service (vehicle-for-hire business models have effectively existed since the idea of transportation has existed), but by streamlining the entire process. Uber tapped into the frustration that many felt with the process of hiring a taxi and instead offers a cheaper, quicker, much more personalized experience which all start with a swipe or two on your phone.

Although many may view Uber as a taxi app, its valuation is indication that investors instead see it as a logistics company according to Adrian Gonzalez, president of consulting firm Adelante SCM.

The soon-to-be launched UberRUSH expands the Uber services to allow customers to get “pretty much anything in minutes” according to the their site:

If every local business delivered, we’d all save time and energy. But most simply can’t. Day-to-day operations are already complicated and delivery can cause all sorts of logistical headaches. There has never been a simple local delivery solution. Until now.

UberRUSH aims to steam-line delivery services much in the same way the company has done to the taxi industry with business owners using Uber drivers to deliver products to customers.

The site also boasts that UberRUSH will allow both customers and businesses to: “order and track deliveries instantly, expand delivery zones, and integrate with existing tools and platforms”

It’ll be interesting to see what customers of the near-future will prefer, the go-anywhere mechanical Amazon drone delivery, or the personalized (though less versatile) Uber delivery of a package and a hello.

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news!


Last week, Frost & Sullivan published the 2015 Supply Chain Foresight report which analyzed key megatrends impacting (or predicted to impact) industry stakeholders. More importantly, the survey
A key point of the survey was that the findings were based on how the industry leaders who participated felt about the impact (or possibility of impact) the emerging megatrends would have on their supply chains, businesses and industries.

3D/4D printing and copying was given a low ranking, whereas technology innovation, the rise of African and Asian economies, device connectivity and big data, e-commerce and robotics were cited as the most pressing megatrends.

In our view, the assessment and ranking of the emerging megatrends by the study’s participants isn’t incorrect. However, we feel that it lacks some imagination and that the full implications of this technology is not being fully appreciated from a supply chain and logistics perspective.

3D/4D Printing’s Effect on Manufacturing & Transportation

One of the many appeals of the potential of 3D/4D printing as a technology is that if it were to continue its drop in price, it would then be financially feasible to incorporate into a manufacturing facility in mass. Such an action could effectively localize the entire production process, affecting the transportation and manufacturing sectors in profound ways.

“While manufacturers benefit from the operational efficiencies 3D printing can bring, transportation providers may take a revenue hit if they aren’t fully prepared. Global commercial transportation lanes are particularly at risk since more products will be manufactured locally. A recent analysis found that as much as 41 percent of air cargo business and 37 percent of ocean container business may be affected. About 25 percent of over-the-road (OTR) trucking business is also at risk, due to the potential reduction in goods that start as air cargo or as containers on ships” says an article from Load Delivered (quoting statistics from Strategy&).

3D/4D Printing as it is today

Although it is likely that it’ll be several years before the potential for 3D/4D printing to be fully realized, the technology has however resulted in logistical innovations.
The militaries of Britain, America, and China have already started using 3D printing on the field to replace equipment parts, and to print out surgical instruments and protective masks directly in war zones.

NASA has also experimented with 3D printing as an economical alternative to sending tools and spare parts into space to fix delicate equipment. Rather than using the limited space in a shuttle to transport a wrench to use on the International Space Station, NASA can simply email and print the wench on the station itself.

Other Implications of 3D Printing

The problem with trying to list all the ways that this technology will affect the supply side logistics industry is that the far reaching implications, consequences, and innovations it affords is mostly uncharted territory as there’s nothing like it. It’s ability to collapse the space of manufacturing and transportation of goods is similar to the automobile and will potentially have just as great as an impact on the industry overall.

As mentioned, although the far reaching implications of this technology is murky at best, there are some implications that are generally agreed upon . According to an article on Manufacturing Global Magazine, they are the following:

  • Easier prototyping
  • Easier customisation
  • Greater creativity and efficiency
  • Improved consistency
  • Reduced lead times
  • Lower prices

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news!

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons
There is a lot of talk these past couple of months on the implications of 3D printing and how it will change the face of the logistics and supply chain industry. This month we thought we would highlight the industry and shed some light into its development.

Widely practical, 3D printing is used primarily for prototyping and, more recently, distributed manufacturing. It is commonly seen in the following industries: architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, various engineering and medical industries, and fashion just to name a few.

What is 3D Printing, Exactly?

By definition, 3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional solid objects using a digital model. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing uses a process called the additive process and carries out the process under computer control.

In the additive process, layers of material are laid down in different shapes. This is in contrast to subtractive processes in manufacturing, which is what is traditionally used to produce goods and involves the removal of material by various methods (i.e. cutting, drilling, carving, etc.).

The technology and concept of 3D printing is not a new idea. In fact, 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s. The first working 3D printer was created by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Crop. in 1984. It wasn’t until the early 2010s that companies started producing 3D printers for commercial distribution and use. This is partly due to a Moore’s Law type of progression; the development of the technology used in 3D printing has drastically impacted the price of 3D printers enough to be able to release it to consumer production.

How Will This Affect the Supply Chain?

Cerasis has released an excellent post regarding the impact of 3D printing particularly in inventory and logistics. The most interesting concept is that with the advent of 3D printers, the need to store finished products is nonexistent. There is no more need to store component parts before compiling the final product anymore; it essentially gets rid of the need to shelve or store products in warehouses anymore. This essentially collapses the supply chain to its most basic processes, which creates new efficiencies along the supply chain.

The 3D printing process can drastically alter the global supply chain and re-assemble it into a new local system. It can bypass the constraints of the traditional supply chain model: the need for low cost, high-volume assembly workers, real estate for stages of manufacturing and warehousing components, etc. Thus, the efficiencies of 3D printing impact the entire supply chain, from the cost to distribution and assembly to improving assembly cycle times.

Forbes released a post recently that suggests 3D printers essentially turn consumer products into digital content. The printers can already produce fairly detailed solid objects, though at this stage quite expensively. But according to Moore’s Law, and indeed looking at the history of 3D printing, prices have dropped significantly since the 1980s and will do so in the future. This could impact hardware stores and parts distribution services the same way e-books have impacted book stores.

Too Good to be True?

Tech Republic recently released a post suggesting that 3D printers are a potential double-edged sword and made some interesting points regarding what we should watch out for throughout the development of 3D printing as a process to be used by the masses.

The process of 3D printing itself, while efficient in many ways, are also not the most environmentally friendly. To start, they are energy hogs, 3D printers consume 50-100 times more electrical energy than injection molding and has a reliance on plastics. They are also known to pose health risks, especially with 3D printers used in the home. The emission from desktop 3D printers release unhealthy air emissions. There are also numerous issues on the corporate and legal side, involving potential national security risks, ethics and regulation, and corporate responsibility of products from 3D printed technology. So while 3D printing is something to look forward to, it is also something we should watch carefully.

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news!