This past year, McKinsey & Company released a research report: "The Next Normal. Reimagining operational resilience." Within the topic are two emerging technology trends that fit right into the topic of operational resiliency: Industry 4.0 and 3D printing. Both are instrumental in helping firms throughout the world achieve the very topic of McKinsey's report in establishing the "new normal" we can expect from companies in the future as they strive to achieve it.
Redesigning Operations for Unplanned Events
As part of their report, McKinsey says that "Successful companies will redesign their operations and their supply chains to protect their business against a wider and more acute range of potential shocks and disruptive events."
They will do this on three fronts. One of those fronts is "make versus buy." "A leading consumer company has accelerated the outsourcing of manufacturing and logistics for some products to specialized players in different regions," the report states. "This approach improves security of supply, thanks to increased local content, while also reducing costs and allowing the company to ramp volumes up or down more rapidly."
A predominant theme in the pursuit of operational excellence is that, according to McKinsey, "aftermarket services organization of the future combines digital tools across the value chain." Part of this value chain incorporates the use of 3D printing. 3D printing is ideal for the value chain and for resilience goals as it allows the production of "low-volume serial parts, resulting in just-in-time fulfillment and reduction in inventory."
3D Printing Works Well with Digitization. Digitization Leads to Resilience
Part of resilience is fully embracing the digital revolution to make things better for the enterprise. Digital scans can translate to digital engineering files that can be refined to precise designs and add the value that this report speaks of.
"Companies that accelerate their digital offerings can see increased engagement now—digitization forces simplification, which customers love—and be prepared for lower-cost operations in the years ahead. They should focus on creating a virtual, digital experience that is on par with—or even better than—the in-person experience. Success in digital channels also has the potential to reduce the costs for in-person sales and increase reach: the greater shareability of virtual experience enables satisfied customers to become advocates. To expand their virtual presence, companies will need to assess their capabilities and then determine how best to augment them. Even retailers without a strong digital presence, for example, could partner with online marketplaces or delivery services."
McKinsey states explicitly that companies that review their digital portfolio and map it to their own value chain will be well poised to meet the demands of a new generation of customers who "want it now" in an age of Amazon and next day delivery. They say the embrace of digitization using technologies such as 3D printing, will help the resilience of a firm with meeting "core interactions on the value chain and focus key customer-experience issues will be well positioned to please customers regardless of how expectations and preferences evolve."
This is all happening right now. Digital platforms rule. They manage most every facet of the enterprise from people, to process, and finished products. 3D printing is already in the mix. It belongs there.
3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Integrates Well with Operational Resilience
Operational resilience incorporates many principles and practices. But it's a buzzword worth knowing, understanding, and believing in. No discussion of it, is complete without bringing 3D printing and additive manufacturing into the discussion.
Such printing can be a boon to resilient companies. It can assist in everything from supply chain slowdowns to the granular requirements of a very specific object, or form, that simply can't wait to be design, tooled and produced. Additive manufacturing adds speed of production, but also a newfound self-sufficiency that companies did not know in earlier industrial revolutions and movements.
McKinsey foretells operational resilience as the "new normal" and one to be embraced: "The next normal will be anything but static. The customer experience landscape is evolving with each passing week, so companies can’t 'set it and forget it' and still expect to stand out. Instead, executives should consistently monitor business trends—what is growing, stagnating, and declining— against their current business strategies to identify new opportunities in the fast-accelerator and potential-to-stick quadrants. To respond quickly to a constantly changing environment, companies will need to have a broad base of employees that know how to empathize with the customer, apply customer insights, and redesign the experience through digital excellence and contactless engagement."