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Today, personalised products mean supply chain complexity

Consumers are no longer happy with the same, mass-produced items; they want personalised products that are newer, better and cooler than anybody else’s. As a consequence, consumer packaged goods (CPG) organisations are striving to launch more and more new and personalised items. The result? An exploding number of SKUs and dramatically complex supply chains.

* In current 3DP adoption the assumption of credit varies between retailers, FMCGs and technology vendors. Retailers will likely try to label services and products as their own if possible, but will face rising resistance as 3D printing gains a foothold in the consumer market.


* Retailers will have little involvement in the field once printers become common features in homes.

* 3D printers could become revolutionary tools in crowdsourcing private label products. However, potential may lie in the development and trial phase while mass-production could be kept for traditional manufacturing methods.

* Keeping retailer-exclusive (private-branded) design catalogues will likely not succeed. However, for products complementing other retailer-specific items (like spare parts) it could be viable.

* FMCG manufacturers should try to get their brands promoted in connection with 3DP and stores are perfect venues for this. Establishing themselves as materials and design suppliers early on is important if/when home printing breaks through.

Experimenting with 3D printing to determine the use case

Traditionally, CPG organisations have held back on 3D printing as the use case was not fully understood, particularly because of their typical high-volume, low-mix production environment. In our latest Future of Supply Chain report, which discusses the implications of emerging technologies on supply chain strategies, only 14% of food and 34% of CPG organisations considered 3D printing disruptive and important today (compared to 57% in aerospace). However, 42% consider 3D printing interesting, although the use case is still unclear – particularly in retail, healthcare and food (see figure below).

3D printing: interesting, but unclear how to use it

Survey data from PwC confirms that nearly 30% of organisations are currently experimenting with 3D technology to determine how it might apply to their business. Some recent CPG cases include:

Food – Pasta maker Barilla is working on a 3D printing technology to make custom-designed pasta shapes, which will enable consumers to show restaurants their desired pasta shapes, stored on a USB stick. Similarly, chocolate manufacturer Hershey lets its consumers interact with a library of 3D graphics on iPads to get a number of chocolate designs printed in 3D.
Fabric and apparel – Making shoes that perfectly fit runners’ feet seems like the competitive battlefield for sportswear makers today. Like Nike and Adidas before, Under Armour has just launched a new trainer printed in 3D. It’s only an initial short run of 96 pieces, retailing at $299.99, but it’s an important move to experiment with the technology and the business case.
Toys – Toy manufacturer Mattel is bringing 3D printing to the hands of its young consumers, with an updated version of the iconic 1960s ThingMaker. This desktop 3D printer will be sold from October 2016 at $299.99 and will include an app from Autodesk that enables kids to navigate and customise a library of 3D drawings of action figures and jewellery.

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Whether you work in food, apparel or any other consumer industry, you now have a solution to ease your supply chain complexity. 3D printing is set to open new opportunities for CPG organisations offering customised products and limited series, and puts production in the hands of the consumer.

Taking full advantage of this postponement opportunity isn’t a technology issue, it’s a call for a completely new business model. Start experimenting now!



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