3D PRINTING – Disruptive Innovations transforming the Future of Supply Chains by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

The real breakthrough in the supply chain domain is the arrival of 3D printing as a serious competitor in finished product markets. The technology is slowly gaining acceptance in applications that are “taking it from the prototype to the production-grade stage for smaller components.” The potential changes are many.

Here are a few possibilities.

3PL to Manufacturer 3PL

A new type of 3PL could emerge that offers manufacturing services through 3D printing.  Operators like UPS are well positioned to take on this role because a number of intellectual property issues must be resolved before AM methods become ubiquitous. As a trusted third-party provider, UPS has the market stature and scale to function as a new type of hub where products are made, assembled, and distributed.

A New Breed of Agile Supply Chains

With 3D printers operating as standalone installations in strategic locations, companies could manufacture in short runs at multiple sites across the globe. The networks would flex with shifts in demand by reconfiguring the manufacturing nodes or by adjusting machine outputs. Production units shift rapidly from one product variant to another without the need for retooling or lengthy line delays. The AM model also offers tremendous opportunities to cut inventory costs, because there would be less need for inventory. The management of raw materials inventory also would be streamlined as production processes generate less waste.

Streamlined Maintenance

Armed with 3D printing, machine repair services “don’t have to have every single component; you can print components when needed,” says Ulrich. Positioning parts inventories would become much less of a challenge for teams in the field.

Extreme Just-in-Time

A flexible, highly adaptive network of 3D printing installations could take just-in-time and postponement operations to new levels of efficiency. AM methods could be used to produce precise quantities of customized components very late in the final production cycle when more accurate demand information is available.

New Risk Management Dimensions

Opportunities for improving risk management represent another potential benefit of AM-based manufacturing. Low market-entry barriers and the ability to retool quickly reduce business risk. The technology also provides companies with a rapid-response mechanism when an unforeseen incident disrupts the supply chain.

Green Premium

Since additive fabrication is less wasteful than traditional production processes, it reduces carbon footprints. Similar benefits accrue from innovations such as Oxman’s revolutionary design processes that increase functional efficiency, while reducing material content.

References: https://ctl.mit.edu/sites/ctl.mit.edu/files/library/public/Disruptive_Innovations4_1.pdf


  1. How are supply chains changing due to 3D printing?
  2. How does 3D printing help in making the manufacturing industry more green?
  3. How is 3D printing helping in risk management?


How to Survive the Overwhelming Tide of Data

With the increase in accessibility to production and quality data from the use of automation, the Internet of Things, and handheld devices manufacturers are finally able to gather and analyze data to improve their processes at a level hereto unseen before. However, with this seemingly limitless access data comes a new problem: having too much data. More and more companies are falling into the trap of collecting data for the sake of collecting data just because they can and this can actually be harmful to a business. As Douglas Fair states in his article “Drowning in Quality Data: How to Rise Above”, “the insight gleaned from data that is what actually benefits the business”. This means that along with optimizing their processes and machines on the manufacturing floor, manufacturers now also have to think about optimizing how they collect their data so that they are getting the most benefit from it.

When optimization the data collection process, it is important to ask these five simple questions when assessing whether or not they need to be collecting certain pieces of data.

  1. Why do we need to gather this data? What is the improvement we are trying to make with this data we are collecting?
  2. How will we use the data after collection? What are we going to do with it after we have collated it?
  3. Who will evaluate the data? Will it be automated or will we be dedicating personnel to it? Do we have the labor available right now to handle it?
  4. What is a reasonable amount of data to collect? Can we defend why we need as much as we do or could we do the same thing with less?
  5. How frequently do we need to collect the data? How often are we analyzing and using the data to make decisions? Do these coincide with each other well?

At the end of the day, the only sure fire way to make sure you don’t fall into “data gluttony” is to check yourself and ensure that you are collecting data for specific purposes, using all the data you collect, and acting on the insights gained from the data to improve your bottom-line.


Source: https://www.manufacturing.net/article/2019/01/drowning-quality-data-how-rise-above



  1. With data becoming so centric to operations now-a-days, are we going to start seeing roles dedicated to data analysis on site at plants? How will this affect the way plants are run?
  2. What are the costs associated with “data gluttony”? Is it really as big a problem as Fair makes it out to be?
  3. How long does the process of optimizing data collection take? How often should companies review their data collection process to ensure they aren’t collecting useless data?

DRONES IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Two years ago, in an article in SCMR author Nick Vyas outlined real-life applications for drones in the healthcare industry, and predicted other use cases such as pipeline inspections or deliveries of parts and supplies in hard to access areas.

He also noted that “PINC, a provider of yard management systems, has deployed a solution that utilizes drones to identify the location of trailers, shipping containers, and other assets in hard to reach areas. Equipped to carry GPS, RFID, OCR, and barcode readers, the drones can fly overhead to quickly locate and identify assets that have been tagged in a yard or port.”

So, what is the state of drones in the supply chain today?

Companies are focused on improving inventory accuracy to achieve higher supply chain velocity. Tasks like taking inventory and cycle counting are still carried out by humans which can be done more than 300 times faster by drones.

What is the state of the technology? Today, the drone, or robot, flies autonomously in a gps-denied environment using advanced sensors. The company’s warehouse management system (WMS) feeds existing inventory information to the PINC application via integration. When the robot receives a task to count inventory – say the number of cartons on pallets in a storage bay – the software first creates the optimal path for the drone to travel based on mapping done previously.

The drone doesn’t need markers or lasers for guidance to navigate through warehouses. The robot is equipped with an optical system combined with computer vision and deep learning technologies. When it passes through an assigned location, which it knows by the X, Y and Z coordinates, it visually inspects inventory labels and takes photos of the inventory to be counted.

The digital images are processed in real time to generate a count, which is compared against the known count in the WMS system. Since the system manages by exception, after taking inventory, the application provides an exception report to the operator who can click on the exceptions, look at a photo to confirm a count and then, if needed, update the WMS.

Down the road, Yearling expects conversations about using drones in transportation to continue, if for no other reason than the amount of spend on transportation.





  1. How are drones being used in supply chain today?
  2. How do drones aid Warehouse Management Systems?
  3. How do drones improve inventory accuracy?

How will manufacturing progress in 2019?

As manufacturers are continuing to run their operations as lean and efficient as possible technology is continuing to drive change industry. Decision Analyst, on behalf of IQMS, conducted a survey of 151 North American Manufacturers about technologies that they are using to transform their operations. Louis Columbus wrote about the results in his article “Ten Manufacturing Technology Predications for 2019” where he summarizes what the key technological advancements will be that transform manufacturing as we enter the New Year.

  1. More attainable lights-out production courtesy of affordable Smart Machines that are able to run unattended for two or more shifts.
  2. Real-time monitoring with Wi-Fi enabled shop floors and IoT enabled smart machines to improve scheduling accuracy, inventory control, plan performance, and greater flexibility in managing production lines.
  3. Greater adoption of analytics and BI to capitalize on data streams and improve capacity through better resource planning and scale their businesses.
  4. Mobile ERP and quality management applications will become mainstream thanks to advances in integration, usability and high-speed cellular networks and help companies improve data accuracy and operational efficiencies and reduce operational delays.
  5. Digitally-driven transformation with a customer focus by utilizing the above to offer short-notice production runs and achieve greater supplier collaboration.
  6. Replace old legacy machines with cheaper smart machines helping small and mid-tier manufacturers pursue new digital business models.
  7. There will be a major shift to fast-tracking of smart, connected products to avoid price wars and premature commoditization so that within two-years at least two –thirds of product portfolios will be connected thanks to IoT and other technological innovations.
  8. Spreading of the security perimeter thanks to a proliferation of IoT endpoints and an increasing amount of threats to operations from new sources.
  9. Utilizing IIoT to increase productivity by helping improve the inconsistent, inflexible legacy data structures form the shop floor to the top floor.
  10. Greater revenue streams from those manufacturers who were early adopters of IoT will widen the gap between those who adopted IoT early and those who did not.



  1. What will happen to manufacturers who don’t embrace these changes? Will they be able to catch up or will they soon become irrelevant?
  2. What will be the major challenges faced by manufacturers who try to adopt these changes in their operations? How quickly will they see the results from these changes?
  3. Looking beyond 2019, how will the manufacturing space continue to grow as newer technologies come out?

Source: https://www.manufacturing.net/blog/2018/11/ten-manufacturing-technology-predictions-2019

The Rise of the Smart City

By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant

Image result for smart cityTechnologies that once seemed like science fiction fantasy years ago are very rapidly changing our urban landscape. The world is set to become more urbanized, and by 2050, more than 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. Ensuring that these cities are better places to live with an adequate quality of life is essential to making them more sustainable and efficient with streamlined services.

Companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems, IBM, Verizon, Silver Spring Networks, GE, Ericsson, and Siemens are among those pioneering and building smart city solutions. The smart city market is projected to be a $400 billion industry by 2020, with more than 600 cities globally expected to contribute to 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025, according to recent McKinsey research.

In our digital age, imagine having the power at your fingertips via an app to gain fast access to traffic information, road conditions, points of interest, and more in a given city. At the end of the day, it is all about efficiency. The idea of using your smart phone to impact things such as traffic management, waste removal, and even snow removal is simply remarkable, and the next step in urban evolution.



What are some other companies that can contribute smart solutions to cities?

What kinds of technologies can help make a city “smart”?

What are the biggest barriers to bringing about a smart city?

Source: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/smart-cities-the-smart-persons-guide/


One Giant Leap for 3D Printing

By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant


Think for a second. You do not have the tools you need to perform your job, but have limited materials and resources to make what you need to accomplish your tasks. What if the process could be simplified? What if you were in outer space? It just so happens that there is a solution.

The International Space Station (ISS) is employing the use of a combination 3D printer and recycler. Dubbed as a “Refabricator”, this device turns waste into reusable parts and tools. Due to the scarcity of resources in space the refabricator is able to recycle previously printed items, parts, and other on-board plastics into much needed tools for the ISS crew. This is key in reducing the station’s on-board waste and reduces the need to potentially jettison the waste into space.

This device is still in an experimental stage, but its implications for promoting an environmentally sustainable future have yet to reach their full potential. The idea that an all-in-one, on-demand, user friendly machine will some day be widely available here on Earth is a game changer.



How does this device promote a more sustainable environment?

What other materials/items here on Earth might be worth refabricating?

What industries do you think this technology could have the greatest impact on?

Source: https://3dprinting.com/news/refabricator-3d-printer-launched-en-route-to-space-station/

Robots and Self Driving Cars

Self-driving vehicles and robots are becoming more of a reality for business use than being readily available to the general public, despite the major advancements car companies have made for self driving cars.

Volvo has recently developed self-driving container haulers for ports when container ships arrive to drop off cargo. These cars will make logistics easier for the ground crews, and will also make it safer when transporting the containers on the ground. Volvo is still the in the process of making it a reality, but dealing with labor unions will make the process more difficult and cause delays to implement the technology. Please see link below for reference.



Amazon, on the other hand, is currently using and expanding is robot technology in its warehousing to increase efficiency and allow its employees to be more productive. All robots go through a training course to test and see if they’re acceptable for use in the warehouse. Please see link below for reference.

How can Labor Unions be more accepting of self-driving vehicles at ports to allow more efficiency and safety?

Will robots or self-driving cars and container ships replace people completely?

How can AI be implemented into these new technologies to think for themselves?