The future of supply chains – manufacturing changesThese days, technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before. Let’s have a look at an area of the supply chain that could be affected by future advancements. The supply chain of tomorrow will be vastly different from the supply chain of today.
During the industrial revolution manufacturing moved from simple small scale localised production to large scale centralised mass production. However, over the next few years we can expect to see new trends emerge. Changes can be forecasted as it is clear that the required input of labour for manufacturing is continually dropping. This is due to the increase of robotics & other technologies which are persistently evolving and being utilised more and more within the manufacturing industry. The introduction of these technologies into the manufacturing industry has had a major effect on the overall time it takes to manufacture products.
There has been the suggestion that a Third Industrial Revolution is on the horizon. The development of 3D printing and scanning is already dramatically changing the supply chain process. This process involves a 3D scanner, which maps an exact image of an object and the data is then transferred to a computer. A 3D printer creates objects by laying down successive layers of materials. The object is slowly built up; in comparison to traditional machining that uses a subtractive process of removing material. A major benefit of 3D printers is that they don’t produce any waste materials; they only use what’s required to build the object.
Through this particular development, the cost and time of prototyping and designing in the manufacturing process is now able to be halved. A designer can easily scan an older or current model, redesign it using the technology and then print a prototype of their new design within a few hours instead of previous methods which required weeks or even months. Designers and engineers now have the ability to physically print and see their designs within minutes and can also showcase their designs at a lesser cost.
It is the aim of developers that one day, 3D printing will be capable of building complex objects and not just prototypes. When developed, the effect on the supply chain could be enormous. Freight and shipping could almost be eliminated and road and rail transportation costs would be significantly reduced. By manufacturing locally where the demand is, a new wave of customisation for consumers would be enabled.
For the forest products industry, Transport & Logistics is the theme for this year’s very popular ForestTECH 2012 series. Full details on the programme for both countries can be seen on www.foresttechevents.com
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