COVID-19 has brought changes to consumer behaviour, digital adoption and office life. It has also sped up changes like hybrid working and using dropshipping in additive manufacturing. There are pros and cons to using dropshipping, but additive manufacturing specialist, AME-3D, explains why additive manufacturing will be able to utilise it more effectively than traditional manufacturing.
Dropshipping is when vendors send products directly from wholesalers to customers, thereby cutting out inventory management, warehouse and storage costs. It sounds good, yet e-commerce dropshipping has mixed reviews. It’s highly beneficial to the seller and offers lower prices to the customer. But good product quality isn’t necessarily guaranteed. Some of the main pain points of online dropshipping are defective products, missing inventory and shipping complications.
The listed pain points are red flags for businesses considering dropshipping. However, dropshipping combined with additive manufacturing methods offers a solution to these pain points and can morph into a model that is responsive to customer need and more than a passing sales trend.
With additive manufacturing, you can build the parts once you’ve sold them if they’re small enough – or keep a minimal stock. As 3D printing and Low Volume Production (LVP) technologies are often faster techniques than traditional manufacturing for short runs, you can create products on demand and easily adapt them to meet customer need. In addition, a standard quality control process can be implemented, profit can be controlled and managed, warehouse costs can be reduced or even eliminated, and customers will benefit from the convenience of the delivery process.
The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3D printing is set to grow by 10% from 2021 to 2026, with part production expected to dominate. The pandemic has increased the need for reverse engineering to counter supply shortages, with 3D printed parts able to plug this supply hole. Through 2020 and into 2021, AME-3D has seen off-machine orders increase significantly.
While 3D printed parts offer fast solutions, vacuum cast products offer longer-term production partnership opportunities. Dropshipping is the natural next step here. Innovative SME businesses like subsea and marine manufacturer Blueprint Subsea has paved the path for this.
The company use vacuum casting to produce small batch runs of their sonar scanning product, Starfish. Thanks to a partnership with AME-3D, Blueprint Subsea can utilise LVP to get their product to customers faster and practically to order. AME-3D cast the product around the Blueprint team’s electronics. The materials that vacuum casting offers, combined with LVP, has empowered Blueprint Subsea to grow its business more efficiently and bring more products to market than ever before.
How the supply chain changes
Kanban revolutionised production lines by limiting the buildup of excess inventory. Additive manufacturing is set to have a similar impact on efficiency. Not just for internal production lines, but by making Kanban efficiency accessible to all companies. With additive manufacturing and partners adopting dropshipping techniques, the AM provider becomes an integrated part of the supply chain. AM providers can minimise manufacturing risks and fit into popular just-in-time models. Furthermore, they can serve as quality controllers and handle delivery in dropshipping partnerships.
AME-3D’s Production Manager, Lee Taylor, remarked: “Times are changing in manufacturing. To match production flow with changing demand, companies need to be in the position to focus on efficiencies rather than reserves.
Not every company has the internal setup or the funding to make this shift. Previously, these companies would be missing out. But by utilising the speed and quality of different additive manufacturing techniques, committing to partnerships and combining this with dropshipping, UK companies of all sizes will soon reap the rewards.”