We have warehouses to store Inventory.
We have a lot of inventory for many reasons.
It could be because we decided to source our products using a Low Cost Country Strategy which helps reduce our unit cost but increases our wait time until it is available locally.
We have inventory because our manufacturing process is so complicated it takes a long time to produce a unit, that that our customer is most likely not willing to wait for.
We have Inventory because our manufacturing process in antiquated and challenges us when we need to make a product.
Ultimately, Inventory is time stored in a physical format. But these physical attributes of time still cost a lot to store, manage, pick and ship.
It is not uncommon to see that of the final invoice price of a component 70% is actually the last mile delivery cost. But let us not lose sight of the embedded cost of inbound logistical cost. Frankly, it can be a pain getting that product to our end customer, i need to pick a delivery method Truck, Train, Boat, Plane, Courier, LTL the list goes on and if International we also have customs and duty regulations to content with.
Let us replace Inventory with Additive Manufacturing.
Enter Additive Manufacturing ... WOW !!! Just imagine sending an electronic file to your customer's Additive Manufacturing Machine and Voila a part is born!! Most likely with greater detail and resolution that you produce using traditional methods.
Of course the challenge is what criteria and composition of the additive media you will use? It could be metal, plastic and even concrete.
It is no secret that Additive Manufacturing is exponentially growing and it will make many companies extremely competitive without the need to seek a Low Cost Country sourcing strategy. These machine like, no i mean Love to work around the clock and without breaks. Additive Manufacturing may still seem to be a fringe technology, or a happy hobby, or a great enabler for prototypes and R&D and some still consider it slow, but I guarantee you it is growing and will get bigger, but perhaps the biggest challenge will be the cultural and physiological barrier of accepting a digital file to produce a part instead of getting that finished part for the same price.
The following Video is about 1 hour long, but it really shows how Additive Manufacturing is blossoming here in North America, so it is worth grabbing a coffee, a comfy chair and watch the whole video ... Additive Manufacturing
If you are ready to play or experiment here are some Resources for 3D Printing