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How 3D Printing Is Transforming Parcel Shipping

by Shelby Kimball

Mar 3, 2022

5 min read

We know what you’re thinking. 3D printing? What does that have to do with parcel shipping? Well, more than you (and your wallet) would think!

This new technology is transforming the global structure of the supply chain by making products easy to produce – and, more importantly, faster to transport. What does that look like for shipping? Fewer manufacturers along the supply chain, fewer trucks needed for transportation, plus internal production AND assembly.

In other words, 3D printing takes away the complexity of the product’s links throughout the supply chain – and for shippers, that means a future of significant cost reduction.

 

What is 3D printing and how is it relevant to shipping?

3D printing takes a digital model/image/design and turns it into a physical object by printing multiple layers of material on top of each other. These 3D objects can be created in a fraction of the time a traditional manufacturing process takes and allow for more complex shapes while using less material. How?

  • Because rather than sculpting an item from a large piece of material like metal or plastic, 3D processing only uses the material it needs to make the layers for the object.
  • 3D printing also reduces waste, which experts estimate to be between 70-90% compared to standard manufacturing models.
    • Producers can also utilize the recyclable materials available for 3D printing, reducing single-use materials and environmental pollution.

And since printing is so efficient, less energy is required throughout the process from the products, parts, and labor. Additionally, 3D printing uses digital models accessible by computer, allowing people to make products from their homes or nearby. These short-cuts reduce:

  • Transportation costs (added perk: reduced carbon emissions)
  • Mass manufacturing
  • And costs for raw materials and inventory

 

Okay, that sounds great – but how does this apply to you as a parcel shipper?

When you combine cutting-edge parcel shipping management with 3D printing manufacturing, you have the freedom to let go of hefty shipping links in your supply chain. By manufacturing less volume of product, shippers like you can work with carriers to find the most cost-effective way to ship to your customers. (specified by service type, cost, and carrier mix)

 

What are the benefits of 3D printing for parcel shippers?

3D printing + parcel shipping management creates a double whammy solution for shippers that can: 

  • Slice your shipping costs
  • Rev up delivery times (your customers will love that)
  • Meet and exceed consumer expectations experience
  • Cut out unnecessary middlemen within the supply chain 

The opportunity cost of utilizing 3D printing technology? Across-the-board reduced spend for inventory management, production, and transportation. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. 3D printing constructs products entirely, removing the need to move materials or products from one place to another. (Factory, manufacturing warehouse, distribution centers.) This reduces the need for long-distance transportation and the use of long-distance carriers.
  2. Digital models take up no physical inventory space. O-demand production centers can make products as ordered/necessary without keeping bulky inventory.
  3. Plus, mass production isn’t efficient. 3D printing produces on-demand and eliminates the need for extra materials. (tools, devices, machinery, product molds)

At this stage in the game, adopting 3D printing has come to a crucial head – and eCommerce shippers who haven’t pivoted toward this shipping trend will find themselves part of ‘an ever-shrinking minority.’ 3D printing has well outgrown its infancy stage and is set to reconstruct production and manufacturing technology as we know it.

 

3D printing is skyrocketing last mile delivery and production to new heights 

As last mile delivery takes over as a vital segment of the supply chain, all efforts must gear toward reducing the associated costs – just look at Amazon. They have a patent for 3-D printing trucks to create mobile manufacturing hubs for consumer products. Even UPS and DHL are getting on board. So, where should you start today if you want to integrate 3D printing into your supply chain?

  1. Analyze your operations
    • Assess whether you can implement 3D printing into your operations and, if so, where it can bridge the gaps in your supply chain.
  2. Create a roadmap from your goals
    • Once you’ve determined your goals for 3D printing, it’s time to start planning your strategy. You can use logistics intelligence to analyze your shipping data to determine where your spend is going and evaluate the logistics implications of shipping profile changes.
  3. Adopt new technology
    • The final stage is partnering with a 3D company or implementing the technology within your organization’s operations. And it may take a few rounds with different providers or options to find the best match for your individual shipping needs – but the result will have your wallet smiling.

To gain more insight into the latest shipping trends and predictions, download our eBook: 6 Technologies and Innovations Shaking Up the Shipping Industry today.

Topics: 3D Printing, Carrier Invoice Auditing, Logistics Intelligence, Shipping Costs
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