Companies will need to invest in skilled personnel as well as machinery ©Westend61/Getty Images
Companies will need to invest in skilled personnel as well as machinery ©Westend61/Getty Images

The supply chain impact of 3D printing

CIPS has uploaded the third in a series of podcasts on 3D printing. Having previously introduced the technology, and discussed whether it is truly disruptive, Dr Robert Martens FCIPS ponders its impact on supply chains in this new podcast.

True impact is coming
The technology isn’t yet widespread, but it’s about being ready. The concept of moving and holding stock might change for a preference to printing on demand. Eventually consumers could choose to design and print their own products.

Greater local production
It’s most likely demand will be for single, niche items, that are highly customised, meaning demand will shift away from shipping product from across the world, to much more local production for local customers. 

Communication will be vital
3D printing doesn’t yet have economies of scale. The unit cost of printing one will be the same as printing 10, so being able to explain the entire cost chain is vital.

Challenges lie ahead
Many countries don’t yet recognise 3D printed products as an acceptable manufacturing process so we’re in a transition period, as legislation catches up. Highly regulated industries might need to wait longer. 

Don’t forget people
You can’t just buy a 3D printer. You need people with the technical skills to go with it. Yes, invest in machines, but also in knowledge.

To hear the full podcast visit 

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