Has Your Supply Chain Been Disrupted?

  • Technology and cultural changes are transforming the way people produce and consume.

  • Additive manufacturing allows consumers to become creators and manufacturers to become suppliers.

I follow the Maker Movement as a consumer, analyst — and also as a maker. The Maker Movement is a manifestation of the Do It Yourself (DIY) or Do It With Others (DIWO) culture in which people design, build, and/or market something they want or need on their own rather than buying it off the shelf.

The trend has resulted in a number of technology products and solutions created by typical individuals working without supportive infrastructures. Growing volumes of information and the decreasing cost of electronic components have enabled individuals and small groups to innovate in big ways.

3D printing makes manufacturing personal

One of the most interesting sub-movements of the Maker movement is the rise of 3D printing. Today, people have the capacity to bring their ideas to life simply by clicking “print.” I’m not talking about paper-printed designs of accessories, furniture, cars, houses or even synthetic body parts. I’m talking about physically producing products wherever, whenever.

In the manufacturing world, 3D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — is moving product development from the factory into the office. Consumers are becoming creators. Manufacturers are becoming suppliers. Businesses now face disruption and competition from the very people they used to sell to up and down the supply chain.

Additive manufacturing affects expectations

As global enterprises explore the challenges and benefits of shifting resources toward manufacturing and supply chain disruption, leading organizations are looking at additive manufacturing as part of their supply chain transformation. This level of digital transformation is changing how business is done – not just through or because of technology, but also due to shifts in customer (and employee) behavior, values and expectations.

The same is true with supply chains. M2M is transformative. App development is as well.

Whether or not businesses pursue supply chain optimization or full-blown transformation depends on the business issues that arise because of current and coming shifts in respective markets. As in digital transformation, supply chains will also require changes in strategy, processes, sourcing/procurement, logistics, distribution, and more. Equally, the goal and the challenge are to evaluate business issues and opportunities before they become technology issues.

The point is that every aspect of business, even supply chains, are open to disruption. The DIY culture of the Maker Movement is just the beginning. Disruptive technology and trends do just that: they disrupt. However, processes, systems, technology, resources, and partners benefit from integrated resilience. And that has more to do with culture and leadership than it does with technology.

How is your business preparing for tomorrow? Have you explored additive manufacturing? What other technologies, trends, or applications are transforming your supply chain?


Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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