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The game-changing effects of 3D printing have started to build traction – from reshaping global supply chains to creating a whole new business model: manufacturing as a service. The arrival of the ‘Massive Single Lot Production’ era, is an epoch defined by advances in 3D printing that introduces powerful disruptions to manufacturers in the areas of design, customer engagement and production location.
These disruptions will mean firms now have to steer significant transformative changes across their internal operations ranging from dynamic, user-friendly e-commerce platforms to back-office ERP applications. Achieving growth by reaching the customer long-tail in an era of massive single lot production will necessitate a complete shift from mass marketing to micro marketing.
A New Approach to Customer Long-Tail
Navigating the transition from marketing to the masses to marketing to the long tail is a multi-layered, complex process. To construct a successful market-facing strategy, firms need to focus on three key aspects:
- An extensible framework allowing the dynamic classification of micro segments
- SEO and paid search techniques that auto-scale to ensure unique web and mobile messaging gets in front of users
- Digital tools to enable customers to purchase and, where relevant, design the products they want to buy
Mass customization is the way of the future and firms must work in tandem with technology partners to leverage design thinking strategies and develop custom sites that allow users to start with what they know – the problem they’re trying to solve – and efficiently navigate to products that address these needs. This will entail balancing web and mobile site design with smart back-end materials inventories and design boundary conditions.
The key to success in engaging the customer long-tail is a world-class, intuitive website that involves the customer right from the design process. Creative companies such as Disney have already started tapping into the appeal of exclusive, co-created 3D products such as personalized mini avatars.
Additive printing technology can be a major boon to the retail industry with its potential of not only speeding up production but reducing cost and inventory waste and many mainstream retailers such as Home Depot and IKEA have integrated 3D printed products onto their product portfolio.
Innovative companies such as Nescafe have taken their customer brand experience up a notch by giving their customers more than just coffee. Now their favorite beverage can also wake customers up with 3D printed coffee jar lids doubling up as an embedded electronic alarm clocks which only stops ringing once the customer opens the lid and smells his coffee.
Getting ERP Systems in Sync
A great market-facing strategy that involves the customer via cutting-edge technology platforms can only succeed when coupled with finely-tuned back-end ERP systems. If ignored, these can lead to painful downstream disruptions and unfulfilled customer promises.
Building a digital translation layer is the answer which can fuse together a hybrid additive and traditional manufacturing model, acting as a massive rules engine and traffic cop for downstream activity that sets the boundary conditions for what the web and mobile properties are able to offer customers. This additional layer should involve several micro-services that accepts inputs from all stakeholders and ensures that large-scale changes to the underlying ERP system are avoided.
New Aptitudes and Attitudes
Innovation is inevitably reshuffling the mix of skills needed in the workplace. With 3D printing adaptation gaining momentum, the functional capabilities required for piloting smart machines and 3D printers will differ significantly from traditional job descriptions and firms would need to tailor their talent searches to target specific skills on the market rather than formal degrees, and invest more dollars into training and reskilling the existing workforce.
3D printing can also help businesses to realize their sustainability and ethical sourcing goals by allowing the use of old material in new ways that reduces our carbon footprint. Researchers, for example, have now figured out how to convert carbon dioxide into concrete using 3D printing. The United Nations is also working on making this transformative technology more mainstream by encouraging its inclusion as a field of study in technical universities and specialized labs, especially in emerging economies. With 3D Printing, the possibilities are limitless and we have only just begun.
Click here to explore our eBook series on 3D Printing.
Partner, Infosys Consulting
Frank heads our Germany country portfolio and oversees our important industrial sector across the region. Frank is a proven consulting leader with extensive experience in large global business and IT transformation programs. He joined us from Capgemini, where he was responsible for the management of key accounts in Germany, including the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe. Prior to this role, he was a vice-president at Capgemini Consulting, where he established and grew their services strategy and transformation capability. Previous to that, he was with Accenture for 16 years where he led the automotive and global supply chain practice. Frank holds an Executive MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Chicago, and a master’s degree in computer science from the European Business School, Oestrich-Winkel, Germany.