Distributed manufacturing is increasingly fundamental to the additive manufacturing space. Expediting supply and demand, distributed manufacturing decentralizes manufacturing with a network of geographically dispersed manufacturing facilities. Coordinated using information technology, this model stipulates companies decentralize with geographically independent distributed production.
Identified as a Top 10 emerging “technology” by the World Economic Forum, distributed manufacturing decentralizes raw materials and components. Once the final product is assembled, it is then directly shipped to the customer.
Implementing distributed manufacturing ultimately replaces as much of the raw material in the supply chain as possible with digital information. In addition to completely transforming how distributed manufacturing will change customer relationships and workforce management, this concept will impact the more direct operations. These include:
3D Printing – now applicable to medical, consumer, automotive and aerospace manufacturing- among many other areas- additive manufacturing (3D printing) is integral with distributed manufacturing. With booming versatility across numerous industries, according to Digitalist Magazine, 3D printing provides real-time, on-demand manufacturing production.
Supply Chain – Every link throughout the supply chain will change as a direct result of distributed manufacturing. This is because your partners and their roles will dramatically shift, especially as your raw materials are sourced to a distribution center rather than a central location.
Also, as logistics partners increasingly “store” inventory virtually for on-demand production, the need for physical inventory will diminish, allowing companies to create an efficient supply chain. Moreover, a number of small facilities distributed over a wide area not only reduces logistic costs, but also allows for product customization based on regional requirements.
According to World Economics Forum, “Consumers can customize products to their own needs and preferences. Instead of being centrally driven, the creative design element can be more crowdsourced; products may take on an evolutionary character as more people get involved in visualizing and producing them.
“Distributed manufacturing may encourage broader diversity in objects that are today standardized, such as smartphones and automobiles… Product features will evolve to serve different markets and geographies, and there will be a rapid proliferation of goods and services to regions of the world not currently well served by traditional manufacturing.
“Distributed manufacturing is expected to enable a more efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories… It should reduce the overall environmental impact of manufacturing: digital information is shipped over the web rather than physical products over roads or rails, or on ships; and raw materials are sourced locally, further reducing the amount of energy required for transportation.”
Distributed manufacturing will re-engineer production models for companies around the globe. Although all production operations are not susceptible to the distributed manufacturing model, those that are will witness significant changes in the coming years. Among them are more efficient manufacturing capacity, closer customer proximity, reduced transportation costs and diminished environmental impact.