How 3D printing is reshaping the future of supply chains

01 Feb 2023

Supply chain disruptions continue to plague global economies, especially within the manufacturing industry. In Australia, manufacturers with offshore operations are experiencing significant supply chain issues that threaten productivity and financial stability.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than a third of all businesses experienced supply chain disruptions in February 20221. Of those businesses, 88 per cent reported increased time to receive products from suppliers, whilst 80 per cent reported that existing suppliers were unable to provide products2

Recent changes to the supply chain emerged shortly after the global pandemic was announced, particularly during COVID-19 lockdowns, due to abrupt shifts in demand that created bottlenecks at ports worldwide. Australia’s strong reliance on international trade and foreign investment has made the impact on many supply chains. This reflects temporary trade restrictions, reduced transport options, and increased port loading and unloading times3

Supply chain issues started with COVID-19; however, they’re also affected by intensifying geopolitical tensions, increased consumer demand, labour shortages, inflation, depleted inventory levels, and increased freight costs. 

The Australian manufacturing sector was, and continues to be, impacted in several ways. According to data from the ABS, the most common supply chain issue facing businesses is domestic and international delivery delays, followed by supply constraints and increased prices4. However, soaring transport costs and a significant shortage of parts and raw materials also affect the industry. 

Manufacturers have had to rapidly reassess and pivot to new sources of supply to ensure greater resilience in their supply chains and reduce excessive capital-intensive inventories. However, issues will continue to plague the industry, especially if they choose to keep their operations offshore. We’ve identified five emerging trends impacting global supply chains in 2022: 

•    logistics disruptions

•    production delays

•    digital transformation

•    labour shortages

•    geopolitical conflict 

To offset the impact of these global supply chain challenges, manufacturers must re-evaluate offshoring and sourcing to take advantage of infrastructure that can support complex manufacturing operations onshore. The good news is Australian manufacturers are planning to reshore their manufacturing operations within the next two years, according to the 2021 Australian Manufacturing Outlook survey5.  

To ensure the transition back to onshore manufacturing is as seamless as possible, Australian businesses must implement strategies to manage their own supply chain risk and adequately invest in new technologies that streamline the manufacturing process in order to have significant cost savings benefits. 

Tackling supply chain uncertainty with 3D printing

After two years of shortages and supply chain disruptions, manufacturing industries are sourcing materials and products locally to reduce the risk of supply restraints. They’re also considering implementing new tools and technologies such as 3D printing to bring manufacturing onshore and maintain continuity of production. 

Konica Minolta has identified the three primary reasons why industries are turning to 3D printing: 

•    reduced lead time 

•    reduced costs 

•    reduced transportation

The 3D printing manufacturing process allows for just-in-time (JIT) inventory to increase efficiency, cut costs, and decrease waste. It also helps manufacturing companies customise nearly every aspect of their product and operations. They can first design their customised products using computer-aided design (CAD) software and then transfer the files to a 3D printer for production. 

Empowering internal teams with in-house 3D printing technology significantly lowers the cost per print compared to outsourcing and bypasses the time-consuming task needed to produce parts. It can also make entire value chains more agile by reducing production duration and cutting out overseas transport.

Overcoming supply chain challenges moving forward will take a precise approach, forcing organisations to become more flexible and balance cost and the security of supply to rapidly deal with the needs of their customers.

Konica Minolta helps Australian businesses combat supply chain issues with advanced 3D printing technology. We partner with vendors such as the inventors of 3D printing technology, 3D Systems, and additive manufacturing specialist, Markforged, to bring industrial-grade large-format printers that deliver exceptional accuracy, reliability, and repeatability. 

Whatever your business needs are, Konica Minolta can recommend the right technology for advanced customisation, faster prototyping, less waste, and ease of application.  

Contact the Konica Minolta team today to find out how 3D printers could solve your supply chain challenges. 


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