The Next Move for Supply Chains: Real-time Production in the Post-COVID World

In the 1980s we discovered that just-in-case production didn’t work - high inventories, high cost, high waste, and high probability of obsolescence. Now we’re learning that just-in-time production doesn’t really work either - low inventories, low reconfigurability, slow to respond to a crisis.

So, what now?

Once the COVID-19 crisis ends, we are facing an unprecedented period of economic uncertainty as companies and countries get back to work. What parts will be needed and when? Where will supplies come from?  It is difficult to know whether the economy will regain some sense of normalcy or whether we will all have to adapt to a “new normal”. It is still too early to tell. So now is the time to explore the question:  What can we do now to prepare for an uncertain future?

Small businesses, manufacturing companies, the private sector, healthcare, and governments need to keep operating through the pandemic. In the past few months, organizations have realized just how precarious hyper-localized, high volume just-in-time production really is. It not only is a poor response to natural disasters in general, not just a global pandemic. Returning to the old method of just-in-case production – overstocking, bulk warehousing inventory – still isn’t the answer. We do not have the time or resources to make enough production in the current climate, let alone wait to produce more stock and go back to keeping heaps of extra inventory after the pandemic blows over. Let’s not focus on what happens after just yet, we’re not there yet. Let’s look at real-time - how do we solve the issues of lean manufacturing right now? 

Factories are slowing, freight is becoming more costly and delayed, laborers are forced to work in worsening conditions, and demand isn’t being met. Due to governments worldwide enforcing social distancing, the economy has slowed as borders close, transportation reduces, and people stay home.  Products are too far away from the people who need them and there are too many uncertainties and roadblocks in the way. 

3DQue provides solutions for on-demand production with minimal human intervention and the ability to scale additive manufacturing. The automation allows for design, production, and warehousing to be brought in-house, decreasing lead times, and improving delivery times greatly. This is lean manufacturing enhanced. No worries about factories running behind due to reduced labor, reduced risk of entire shipments of the product being redundant because additive manufacturing can enable instantaneous product fixes or upgrades, and no uncertainties about border access or freight cost due to unexpected global crises. 

Businesses need to be proactive and make necessary supply chain shifts now so that they can survive through the pandemic. We need the foresight to understand that first, the way supply chains operate will change again, and second, having more control over production by going digital is how businesses will give themselves the flexibility to make important decisions in these changing times.

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