29 Jul

Destruction, Disruption. 3D Printing and the retail supply chain

Before I dive into my thoughts on how 3D printing will alter the landscape of retail as we know it, let’s examine the difference between 2 commonly used words.  Destroy and disrupt.  Because sometimes technology disrupts, and sometimes it destroys.  And since 3D will be more destructive then it will be disruptive, our lexicons should be on the same page.

  • Destroy.  Verb. To put an end to the existence of something by damaging or attacking it.
  • Disrupt. Verb. interrupt by causing a disturbance or problem.

It is a foregone conclusion at this point that online shopping companies like Amazon have been majorly disruptive.  The value of Amazon Inc has increased 2000% in the last 10 years.  It is bigger than Walmart,  Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohls, Penney, Sears combined.  Amazon has dominated them and forced all of them to adapt to the new market.  However, all of those companies are still operating.  These companies will probably continue to operate if they adapt to the market place.

3D Printing has the ability to destroy the supply chain as we know it.  Here are a few reasons why I think 3D Printing will be the final nail in the coffin and usher in a post modern world:

  • It will be the first major technology to have widespread adoption occurring after we have powerful and function AI systems.  Thus far we have been designing AI around technologies.  3D printing is getting designed by engineers who know the power of AI and Machine Learning.
  • 3D Printing will compress the supply chain.  Online shopping has only created a shift in buying behavior in which only the retail store got cut out of the buying loop.  3D printing will change how everything is made, where it’s made, where it’s stored and how or if we even buy it.  Often, it will go
    • FROM THIS:   Raw Material -> Manufacturing -> Distribution -> Physical / Online Retail -> (YOU)
    • TO THIS:  Raw Material -> (YOU)

Amazon and other online retailers have spent billions of dollars in perfecting a supply chain that rely on them being the middle man between manufacturing and consumers.  What happens to this model when the consumer becomes the manufacturer?


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