Category: Supply Chain Trends


Every business aims to be the best, but the changing demands of the global marketplace makes it difficult for them to stay relevant. That’s when business firms look out in the open to find an answer, to find companies with similar pain points and the solutions used to overcome them. Hence businesses, especially those in the field of supply chain, crave for a platform where CIOs from across industries can come together and discuss their strategies and industry best-practices. Having helped over 250 customers around the world to address their procurement, supply chain, and analytics needs, Bristlecone—a leading supply chain advisory and analytics SaaS+ firm—understands the need of the hour and what it takes to optimize one’s supply chain and operations. That is why at Bristlecone Pulse 2017, a premier supply chain customer-facing event, thought leaders from the field of supply chain management will gather under one roof to share insights on actionable technologies that will give your business a competitive edge in the market.

John Rossman, an industry leader on Disruptive Innovation and author of ‘The Amazon Way’, is a featured speaker at Bristlecone Pulse 2017. A former Director of Enterprise Services at Amazon, he comes with over two decades of guiding and helping businesses transform their business models—across a wide range of industries including retail, insurance, education, forest products, industrial products, and transportation. In his talk ‘Leadership Lessons on Disruptive Innovation’ he discusses the importance of creating strategies around Internet of Things (IoT) that can help businesses to improve customer experiences, drive operational improvements, and build new business models.

Lora Cecere, founder of the research firm Supply Chain Insights, and author of the enterprise software blog Supply Chain Shaman, and a LinkedIn Influencer, will be a part of Bristlecone Pulse 2017, as well. With over four decades of varied supply chain experience, Lora offers a fresh perspective on the evolution of enterprise technologies. Her profound understanding of supply chain has also resulted in her co-authoring two books, namely Bricks Matter and Metrics That Matter. Her insights and profound views are often sought out by renowned publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, ComputerWorld, and Financial Times. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, Lora’s session—Network of Networks—will throw light on the importance of driving interoperability between the networks of technology providers and businesses.

Amber Salley, a Research Director on the Gartner Supply Chain Technology Research Team, in her research primarily focuses on supply chain planning technologies across industries. Her area of expertise includes Large-scale Cost and Culture Transformations, Business Process Re-engineering, Shared-services Development, and Large-scale ERP Implementations. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, she will lead a panel discussion on How BPaas is Driving Value Beyond Traditional Approaches. The session will also discuss how the performance of one’s supply chain can be improved through better asset utilization, automated replenishment, minimal transshipment, and cross-border regulatory compliance.

The ever evolving digital landscape has made life simpler for everyone around us, especially when it comes to the way we connect with everybody or everything else. But this digital evolution also has an unsafe side to it that neither individuals nor businesses should overlook. The onset of cybercrime, as a result of the digital evolution, has made the connected world vulnerable to digital threats, such as cyber-terrorism, malware, data theft, and the advanced persistent threat (APT). And these threats are impacting the security within the supply chain in a huge way. Jeff Klaben, Chief Security Officer at SRI International, will focus his session in Bristlecone Pulse 2017 on The Future of Cyber Security and How it Relates to the Supply Chain.

Bristlecone Pulse 2017, held from February 8 to 10, 2017 at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa will be a splendid opportunity to learn more about the intricacies of supply chain and how to get the maximum out of it.


The performance of most businesses is directly proportional to the effectiveness of their supply chain strategies. And it might come as a shocker, but even today many businesses have supply chain strategies that are not lined up to their business goals or these strategies are not communicated well enough within the business. Hence, it becomes imperative for businesses to take a pragmatic approach–after having gained an understanding of industry best practices–for developing supply chain policies and strategies that not only meet the needs of the business, but also drives real service and bottom line improvement.

Having helped over 250 customers around the world address their procurement, supply chain, and analytics needs, Bristlecone, which is a premier supply chain advisory and analytics SaaS+ firm, understands the need of the hour and what it takes to master one’s supply chain and operations. Bristlecone Pulse 2017 – a premier supply chain customer-facing event–is one place where top experts and industry leaders, who have mastered the intricacies of supply chains, will come together to share insights and educate participants on not just how to keep their supply chain safe and thriving, but also how to gain a competitive edge in the market. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, sessions will be focused at the future of cyber security, how BPaaS is driving value beyond traditional approaches, and strategies on digitalizing the supply chain, innovation, analytics and IoT, among other topics. Some of the distinguished speakers featured at Bristlecone Pulse 2017 are John Rossman, Industry leader on Disruptive Innovation; Lora Cecere, Founder of Supply Chain Insights; Jeff Klaben, Chief Security Officer at SRI International; and Amber Salley, Director on the Gartner Supply Chain Technology Research team.

Bristlecone has enabled strategic, incremental value for customers across multiple industry verticals. And with its singular focus on addressing procurement, supply chain and analytics challenges, Bristlecone helps businesses to diagnose, design, enable and enhance their operations by encapsulating years of experience into pre-configured solutions, accelerated deployments and enhancement packs for the leading supply chain technologies. Gartner has recognized Bristlecone as one of the top ten system integrators and Bristlecone’s planning, sourcing, and procurement practices have been rated as the best in the industry.

Learn more about the future of cyber security and other aspects of supply chain at Bristlecone Pulse 2017, which will be held from February 8 to 10, 2017 at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa.

Empowering 3 A’s (Agility, Adaptability, Alignment) of Supply Chain with Anaplan

Today, with globalization and technology advancement, immense opportunities are opening up in business. Companies can source globally, reach more customers, explore new business, expand product-lines, and exercise better control over an increasingly diverse line of businesses at a much quicker pace.

With this explosion in opportunities and scope of the supply chain, new challenges are also rising.  There are opportunities in terms of more avenues, suppliers, buyers, better control, and better connectivity. However, there are challenges because of the mammoth volume of data that is getting generated with every passing minute. This data deluge appears to be an insurmountable challenge when you are trying to do a what if analysis, a comparative study, a multi-dimensional analysis and finally generating actionable insights. If we refer to the concept of “Triple-A Supply Chain” (published in the Harvard Business Review by Hua Lee in 2004  the three A’s of the Supply Chain: Agility, Adaptability and Alignment, have become extremely relevant in today’s supply chain management. Because now it’s not only about maximizing profit or maximizing customer satisfaction but the combination of both, which is expected out of a highly effective Supply Chain Network. Today, supply chain effectiveness is the prime focus of business.

Planning is gaining more importance to achieve the best of the 3 As. Therefore, a shift from a conventional MS-Excel tool towards new intelligent tools is being witnessed widely and is taken very seriously in the present business environment. There are no second thoughts about MS-Excel being a wonderful tool that is very easy to learn and use. However, being a planner, I have experienced that planners work in silos when they use MS-Excel and this application is not effective to analyze large volumes of data with multiple levels of hierarchies. Anaplan is one of those visionary planning tools which is easy to use, has a quick turnaround time, no coding requirement, and has already been adopted by 60000+ users..Let us see how Anaplan can help the 3 A’s of Supply Chain (Agility, Adaptability and Alignment) with a focus on achieving effective and evolved Supply Chain Networks.
Agility: Being agile, is to anticipate/sense the demand-supply variabilities and being able to respond quickly and efficiently. Properly analyzed historical and present data, along with scenario analysis (What-ifs) are highly reliable pointers to the same. Anaplan’s multi dimension analysis ability helps extensively in being agile when analyzing data. Typically, a planning sheet contains multiple sets of data across various levels and hierarchies (e.g., product hierarchies, organization levels, etc.). [HD1] Multi dimension ability allows planners to analyze data at each level of hierarchy, across all dimensions in a single worksheet. Anaplan enables planners to quickly create scenarios and view them at various levels of hierarchy enabling agile and informed decision making.

Adaptability: Adaptability is mostly about the long-term  perspective of the company with regards to responding to the market changes. Efficient utilization of technology & capacity, establishing strategic partnership with key stakeholders (e.g. suppliers, contract manufacturers, and logistic partners) and structural changes in the supply chain network are among the key factors, which need to be kept in focus to turn a company into a more adaptive and future-ready unit for the markets.

Anaplan being a cloud-based application provides lot of flexibility and freedom to sync data from almost anywhere. The data sync with Anaplan across departments/parties creates a high visibility and predictability in developing planning models like long-term-capacity-planning (LTCP), short-term-capacity-planning etc and therefore helps the company to be more adaptive and prepared for future changes.

Alignment: Collaboration with suppliers and customers is the key to take a matured supply chain to the next level and the importance of collaboration cannot be over stated. Effective and seamless collaboration also helps in getting critical alerts, such as over commitment of supplier capacity, supplier/distributor resource balancing, and so on.

Mostly, planners or users from different departments/parties are unwilling to share their worksheets with others. This approach leads to siloed working and lack of collaboration. Anaplan provides restricted access management by assigning different roles to different individuals. This ensures that data privacy can be maintained while allowing data sync to happen which would be required for various calculations or analysis. Anaplan’s dynamic dashboarding ability can be easily used by top management to take decisions after analyzing multiple what-if scenerios without navigating across multiple sheets.

In the future, supply chain would be more data and analytics driven. Planning and analysis of data at each level of the supply chain will determine  its contribution to an organization’s success. In view of all these factors, Anaplan is a pioneering and highly promising tool, which can redefine the supply chain through its excellent enablers for planners, analysts, or higher management.

Do you want your supply chain to be agile, adaptable and aligned with Anaplan? You can contact us at:

Opportunities for Your Supply Chain

Over the years organizations have realized the value of an optimized supply chain, as it helps in realizing better business potential and increasing revenues. Today, the focus is not only on getting the right product at the right price at the right time; it is more about aligning your supply chain strategies with that of your suppliers, distributors, and customers, to gain a collective competitive edge. With procurement and production going global, it is important for businesses to ensure:

  • Collaborative streamlined supply chain
    Collaboration helps in building relationships that can influence the long-term sustainability of a business. Seamless collaboration between all the stakeholders help in building a deeper relationship and trust between the trading partners, leading to gaining more of the business. Collaborative relationship also help in increasing sales volume from downstream buyers, lowering operational costs within the relationship, word-of-mouth referrals, and new product and process innovations resulting from the working relationship between trusting partners.
  • Transparency, quality and sustainability
    These days consumers want to make sure that the products they purchase are of high quality, reliable and responsibly sourced.  This specifically applies to the food services industry, which has seen a major trend in the consumption of healthier options as compared to low-cost offerings. Other than quality, the safety and handling of raw materials through all stages of production is of utmost importance for optimized supply chains.
  • Faster access to valuable information
    Information sharing or providing the right amount of significant information to those who need it and when they need it, is critical for effective Supply Chain Management. A study conducted jointly by Stanford University and Accenture, looked at 100 manufacturers and 100 retailers in the food and consumer products industry, and found that the companies that reported higher than average profits were the ones that were engaged in higher levels of information sharing. Timely access to significant information in supply chain leads to decrease in costs, less inventory, better decision-making, reduced cycle time and better customer service, besides reducing the manual transaction processing time.
  • Supply chain that runs on predictive data
    As organizations are going global, the supply chain is becoming more complex and harder to protect from interruptions. Although global supply chains can increase efficiency, they can also increase risks. Many companies are using predictive analytics to deal with such complexity. Predictive analytics are used to determine the consequence of an event as well as the likelihood of a situation occurring using several statistical techniques. According to an infographic from SAP, 68% of organizations that use predictive analytics have realized a competitive advantage, while 86% say the technology will have a major positive impact on their organization. The applications of predictive analytics are nearly endless, from deciding where and how to source raw materials to managing supply risk and optimizing production and logistics.


Bristlecone Pulse! – Your chance to attend and learn about latest trends in supply chain, procurement, and analytics

Bristlecone Pulse 2016 is a premier supply chain event that features top experts and industry leaders who have mastered their supply chains. Listen to Rob Quinn from Cepheid, talk about “Maintaining Focus: Don’t Risk Value for Vision” and attend Gartner hosted panel discussions with Alex Soejarto, Research VP.

The Supply Chain Takes Center Stage

How Your Supply Chain Strategies Dictate Your Organization’s Success
Article by Irfan Khan, Features in the January Issue of SAPinsider

On a global basis, enterprise success is being increasingly determined by the strength of supply chain processes. With so many solutions available to improve your supply chain, it is tempting to choose those that focus on features rather than a solution that will address specific customer pain points. However, by asking the right questions at the right time, you can adopt technology and processes that make a real difference in your business’s strategy and operations. Read more..

3PL: Easier Way Out for Manufacturing Companies?

The Recession was a reality check for all companies as it was clear that ‘No company is too big to fail’. However, the post-recession phase was highlighted with companies trying to make their supply chain as lean and effective as possible. As companies look into alternatives to keep their operational costs in check the priority remains the same, formulating smarter ways to manage the flow of their final goods to their customers all around the world.

Challenges Faced and a Way Out

Maintaining multiple warehouses and efficient in-house logistics has become a financial burden on these companies.  Rising fuel prices and tightening of compliance requirements and customs regulations have made matters worse. Hence, the post-recession phase saw a lot of companies downsizing their logistics division and outsourcing their logistics requirements to other Third Party Logistics (3PL).

How 3PL Drive Value as a Core Business Partner

3PLs are respective experts in the field of delivering supply chain solutions. However, in order to get the best out of them it is very important for companies not to treat them as an ordinary transportation service provider, but align them as their core business partners. 3PLs are actively trying to come up with new strategies and resourceful ways to improve productivity, cost effectiveness and keep the transit time as short as possible. In such a set-up, we have a situation in which the manufacturing company as well as the 3PL are operating on the lines of Comparative Advantage available, meaning each one is doing the set of jobs in which they specialise  and as a result the overall supply chain of the manufacturing company becomes strong and effective.

How do the Companies Benefit using the services of a 3PL?

The 3PLs usually cater to the needs of a wide variety of clients and hence they can operate at costs which cannot be matched by a manufacturing company’s in-house logistics team. Their management of the entire process map is remarkable because their business thrives on customer satisfaction as well as future prospect of business. Hence they are motivated to put the right people at the right place to ensure that they don’t miss any delivery deadlines. This dedication is critical to a company as it helps them provide better service to their client base all over the world.

Supply Chain Segmentation

Today’s supply chains – challenged continuously by globalization, outsourcing, product configurations, demand volatility, costs and varied SKUs – are increasingly complex. These pressures drive companies to find ways to satisfy customer needs in the most timely, efficient and profitable manner.  But different products, customers and logistics flows require different strategies and objectives. There is no one supply chain strategy that will meet unique requirements of a wide range of customers from different segments and markets.  It is very difficult to operate on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ supply chain strategy which over serves some customers and under serves others, affecting profitability and sales. The future belongs to companies who can match their supply chains to the specific needs of their customer segments, and therefore supply chain segmentation remains one of the key interests of supply chain leaders.

Gartner defines Supply Chain Segmentation as “Designing and operating distinctly different end-to-end value chains (from customers to suppliers) optimized by a combination of unique customer value, product attribute, manufacturing and supply capabilities, and business value considerations.” Segmentation is about maximizing customer service and company profitability, by having different supply chain strategies in place for serving different customers associated with different channels and different products, based on their value to the organization. Here value may be defined by volume, revenue, profit margin, strategic importance or a combination of these factors. The goal is to find the best supply chain processes and policies to serve each customer and each product at a given point in time, while also maximizing both customer service and company profitability.

There are multiple methodologies for approaching supply chain segmentation. Here are a few parameters to address segmentation.

Supply chain segmentation is an iterative process as there is a constant change in customer requirements.  To maximize effectiveness of supply chain segmentation, it is important to:

  1. Perform regular Cost-to-Serve and demand analysis: Cost-to-Serve is the cost of all supply chain activities from taking the customer order upto delivering the order. For successful implementation of segmentation strategy, companies must monitor cost, profitability and demand.
  2. Improve engagement with customers and alignment with suppliers, contract manufacturers and other trading partners.
  3. Assess suppliers:  Periodic supplier evaluations will help in segregating top contributing trading partners from the less contributing ones. It will help in identifying the low performing suppliers and providing assistance to them.
  4. Keep up with Technology and Big Data: Companies should have right tools in place in order to maintain visibility within multiple segments, so that decision makers get the right business intelligence and real-time insights, much needed to evaluate the segmentation strategy.

In short, supply chain segmentation is a powerful strategy to mitigate supply chain complexity. Companies that successfully deploy segmentation strategies will have improved customer service and sales, higher growth and margins and a deeper multi-channel penetration. However, in absence of the right decision-support tools, segmentation strategies will not yield the expected benefits.


Importance of Reverse Logistics

Any logistics involved after the point of sale to recapture value and ensure proper disposal of the returned product, is called reverse logistics. This aftermarket activity involves activities like Refurbishment, Replacement, Remanufacturing, Scrap and even Excess inventory, etc. It includes recycling programs, hazardous programs, proper equipment disposition and asset recovery.

Earlier companies did not pay much attention to reverse logistics. However, now due to consumer awareness, law enforcement on disposal of certain goods makes it very important for companies to manage an efficient reverse logistics. Now-a-days, companies are even getting ISO certification for their returns process.

Reverse Logistics Activities

It can include a variety of activities depending on whether the goods are returned from a customer (end user) or a distributor, whether the goods sent back is a packaging material or a product and similar other factors.  If it is a product then activities like refurbish, recondition, remanufacture, recycle, landfill, etc. can be performed. If it is a packaging material, reuse, refurbish, recycle, reclaim material activities are involved. For examples, Coca Cola reuses its glass bottles and reconditions it before bringing it back in the market. Broken bottles are recycled.

To reduce costs, firms attempt to reuse materials as much as possible. For products that cannot be reused in anyway due to its poor condition, legal implications, environmental issues, etc. firms then scrap the products at least possible cost.

The table below shows few examples of the type of returns from supply chain partners (retailers /distributors) and end users:

Supply Chain Partners End Users
Stock Balancing Returns Defective Unwanted Product
Marketing Returns Warranty Returns
End Of Life/ Season Recalls
Transit Damage Environmental Disposable Issues
Reusable Boxes Recycling / Reuse

Strategic Weapon

Strategic variable not only places emphasis on business functions such as finance, marketing but also logistics. Many firms now take the material back through the supply chain as an important capability in logistics. The 1982 Johnson & Johnson Tylenol poisoning case is a classic example of how important reverse logistics can be for a company. Tylenol was laced with cyanide because of which 7 people died. The company market value fell by USD 1 billion during that time. The same case happened again in 1986, but this time the company was ready with an efficient reverse logistics system. It recalled the product from every possible store and not just the places where it had happened.  Johnson & Johnson then came up with a tamper proof packaging and was able to re-establish its name.

Competitive Reason

Customer satisfaction is an important objective of companies to remain competitive. Firms have started to believe that satisfied customers are important assets and hence have liberalised their returns policy. Best example to explain this would be online shopping websites like Myntra, Firstcry, etc. Customers who are not satisfied with the products they have purchased, regardless of whether the product has any fault or not, can return them along with pre-printed returns forms supplied to them by the company along with the product.  Louis Philipe replaces their defective products immediately and do not even ask for an invoice proof.

Nike takes back worn-out shoes and grinds them to make a new material called Nike Grind which is used to make high quality basketball courts, turfs, tracks and more.  The customers do not get anything in return, however the environmental benefit associated with it incentivizes people to buy the shoes.


Not every company today emphasizes on their returns policy, but the investment in reverse logistic systems is higher than before and quite substantial.  A strategic reverse system can help a company stand out in the market and become more profitable.

How Big Data Is Impacting the Automobiles We Drive

Data has impacted a number of sectors immensely. Decisions which were previously taken with experience are now taken by crunching information. Be it the e-marketing tools used by various companies or the multi-product retail giants who want to identify the most relevant products for the consumers .Its influence is ever increasing and affecting most aspects of business. The Automobile industry has lagged as far as application of big data goes. There are a number of areas where it can bring about significant financial as well as non-financial benefits for automobile companies. Big data is changing not only how automobiles are produced but also what we drive and how we drive. Some of the ways data crunching can be beneficial are:

Cash Flow Planning
Cash flow planning activity is conducted at regular intervals by organizations. The frequency of such activities are limited by technological capabilities in terms of the processing power of machines, the decision making algorithms used for identifying various activities as well as the amount of short-term funds that needs to be allocated. Big data products can enable running more complex algorithms at a regular frequency, which will lead to more effective decision making by finance managers.

Consumer Finance
Analysis of vehicle sales, with respect to the financing options, combined with various other factors like demography and geographical locations will give insights into the consumer needs. This will help in developing better financing solutions.

Management of Incentives
Incentives for marketing teams as well as dealers are generally decided at the beginning of the year by companies based on historical sales data, current economic situation in that region and other foreseeable factors. Once the dealers achieve their targets or are close to them they lose the motivation to sell more.  A more real-time analysis of incentives can help in situations where if a region is doing exceedingly well and a region is particularly lagging behind, then the incentives can be redistributed from the lower performing region to higher performing region.

Customer Feedback/Social Data
Feedback given by consumers on various websites/blogs as well as other social networking platforms can be analyzed for developing better marketing tools and channels. This will in effect help in channelizing effort to the right set of customers.

Extended Supply Chain
The different aggregates of vehicles like the engine, gearbox, front axle, rear axle, are handled by different vendors. Currently the availability of the critical subcomponents of each of these aggregates is not available with the OEMs. Real-time information about the availability of critical components with various vendors can help in more effective planning of production schedules of different vehicles.

Availability of Spares
Information related to warranty trends (vis-à-vis car, component, geography or season), predictive maintenance trends and product performance problems can be used for more effective and efficient inventory planning and transportation systems. It is a win-win situation for customers, dealers, and manufacturers.

Warranty Analysis/ Predictive Maintenance
Consumer comments available at various service centres, social networking sites, blogs as well as warranty claims can be used to calculate the future warranty cost.

Huge amount of data is generated by hundreds of on-board sensors that have the potential to quickly highlight abnormal events and to proactively take remedial actions on potential performance problems.

Manufacturing Simulations
Product assembly time as regards the different work stations, the time consumed and manpower involved can be simulated to identify the most optimum assembly time. Time consumed at each workstation by different automobiles of the same company can also be calculated to have more flexibility, better line balancing and reduction in Tact Time.

The influence of Big Data in every aspect of automobile is inevitable. But which companies will derive maximum benefit out of it, is something we will come to know in due time.

Impact of 3D Printing on the Future Supply Chains

3D Printing has the ability to revolutionize production techniques and it is a potential threat to the logistics industry.  It involves making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. It is considered distinct from traditional manufacturing techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc. Once a design is produced using CAD software or a laser scan of the item, it is passed to the printer, which can realize it using metal, plastics or composites.

Strategically, the 3D technology enables many new supply chain models, such as:

  • Streamlined logistics model: Manufacturers use 3D printers at their own sites, thereby reducing inventory levels and warehousing requirements. It is most suitable for items which require further processing before the product is shipped.
  • Customer-managed inventory:  Suppliers install 3D printers at customer sites and provide software designs for the products and parts to be manufactured on demand. The customer can also acquire a printer with suppliers providing design consultations to produce parts, on a license or pay-per-print basis.
  •  3D printing hub: An example of this is how shipping and logistics giant UPS, has installed printers at its sites across USA to provide 3D services locally or remotely to consumers and businesses, which may not have the funds to purchase their own 3-D printers.
  • Home 3D printing: Companies are planning to offer 3-D printers in the retail market. Printer vendors will offer computer-aided design consultations and marketplaces, to create and exchange designs for use with home 3D printers.

These new models, when adopted partially or fully, will have a tangible impact on supply chain management:

  • The supply chain focus will shift from “push” to “pull”. The long production runs for mass production will be replaced by limited production runs for highly customized products.
  • Instead of production based on forecasted demands, 3D printing allows manufacturing based on real-time demand. This results in shorter lead times from order to delivery.
  • By installing printers at client sites, delivery time will be drastically reduced and on-time, in-full and e-fulfillment indices will increase.
  • With an easier way to fine-tune new product designs, prototyping and manufacturing time can be reduced drastically. Supply chains will respond more quickly to changes, resulting in shorter product life cycles and greater customization.
  • Although the cost per unit may be higher, the overall supply chain system costs may be lower than for traditional supply chains, due to:
    • Lower set-up costs: 3D printing eliminates the need for high volume production facilities, thereby radically reducing the set-up costs for manufacturers.
    • Transport costs: Transport costs will be drastically reduced as products will be manufactured locally.
    • Landed costs: By placing printers in companies’ foreign sites, import duties will be reduced, while landed costs and customs delays will be removed.
    •  Inventory costs:  Inventory will shift from finished products to raw materials. The simplest BOM parts / slow moving items can be kept virtual and printed when needed, thereby reducing inventory and warehousing costs.
    • Labor costs:  3-D printing will remove differentiation between the pricing of a single copy or many copies, and this will impact China which is so to say, the world’s workshop.
    • Handling and distribution costs: 3D Printers are able to produce complex small items as ready assembled. Items with moving parts, which previously would have needed assembly, can be produced ready assembled. This eliminates the storage, handling and distribution costs involved in bringing together components.

Before 3-D printing can truly change the game, it has to be scaled up for mass, mainstream manufacturing . Compared to conventional production, the speed of production is very slow, raw materials are expensive, printed products have a rough finish and it’s possible to use only one material in the process.

Once these challenges are tackled, logistics firms will see greater variation in their role. With 3-D printing technology in-house, logistics companies could take on more of a fourth-party logistics (4PL) approach managing software development, delivery services, contract management, etc. providing room for growth, expansion and transformation…