Not So Far Away
By Aanand Pandey
Guess what? Not too far in the distant future, warehouses could become a thing of the past. How did I arrive at this epiphany? Well, the signs are there. A technology called 3D printing could make it possible I am told. Until recently, 3D modeling and printing were processes only used by engineers of big companies like Boeing, which uses the technology to make certain air ducts for its planes. And now the technology has crossed over into the realm of tech enthusiasts.
As you know, 3D printing is the process in which you can create objects from a 3D design, using a printer with cartridges that contain glass, plastic, even metal in the form of powder or gel.
What it means is that, one day, end-consumers can make all sorts of products sitting anywhere with this technology—be it a toy, an accessory for your car (no precision components, yet) or simple industrial parts. It has only been a couple of years since this technology has been introduced to end-consumers, and they have lapped it up with gusto.
According to the US-based research and consulting firm, Wohlers Associates, sales of 3D printing products and services touched an estimated figure of $1.6 billion in 2011. And they are set to grow by 20 percent and more in the coming years.
Currently, the technology is in the early-adapter phase and as and when it becomes ubiquitous, it will have a huge impact on supply chain costs. In other words, warehousing and transportation costs will never be the same again. Sounds like science fiction? Well, new technologies have a way of impacting us sooner than we think.
It will beat the implementation of GST, for sure, going by the speed at which GST is moving. In other words, we may not need GST at all by the time it finally comes through. No, I am joking about this one. And I hope this remains a joke.
On a serious note, be it futuristic technology like 3D printing, or existing ones like RFID and speech recognition, new ideas influence global supply chain at all levels all the time, because of the pan-industry nature of the function. This is the reason a supply chain manager is (or needs to be) the most future-savvy professional around.
When we had to think of a central theme for our upcoming March 15 event, ‘Supply Chain 2.0’ seemed a natural choice. As clichéd as the topic sounds, we thought we could do justice to the subject by learning from the best minds in the business. Fortunately, we have been able to get nods from some respected experts in our field. I know I am plugging our event here, but I feel quite proud looking at the names and experiences of people who will share their views with us. Let me offer you a glimpse or two: Professor N Viswanadham of Indian Institute of Science will speak on India’s food security goals and how India’s supply-chain infrastructure can be used to attain those goals. Then, Mr Darryl Judd of Logistics Executive will be unveiling India’s first logistics salary survey report (the results are published in this issue) and give a presentation on the subject.
Need I say more?