Hewlett-Packard has long been successful in managing their operations to reduce costs and increase performance. Many times they have reorganized their supply chain in order to better match their competitive priorities as a firm; recognizing potential sources of “Muda” (or waste). Hewlett Packard was created in 1939 and has built a brand name associated with high quality products and service. Recently, Hewlett-Packard has once again pledged to redesign their supply chain around new production technologies in order to stay ahead of their competition and pursue continuous innovation.
The advent of 3D printing technologies has massive implications for supply chain design. The ability to instantly create 3D models eliminates massive costs in design and production of products, and makes faster and more efficient distribution feasible as the product development cycle will be shortened. 3D printing technology will allow Hewlett-Packard to integrate multiple steps of their supply chain which will allow them to produce and deliver their products to customers in less time, for less cost.
The decision to reorganize their supply chain around additive manufacturing (3D printing) is a good one for Hewlett-Packard because they are a leader in the field of 3D printing and will be using their own “Multi-Jet Fusion” technology as the basis of their new supply chain model. This decision was only made after carefully considering the current product lines HP holds, which are each able to benefit from 3D printing technology. Over 50% of the plastic parts inside their ‘Jet Fusion 4200” model printer can be produced with 3D printing technology, which will allegedly be the largest number of 3D produced parts in any finished product in the world. Mass produced Large Format printers will benefit from having electronics housing 93% lighter and 50% cheaper with a carbon footprint 1/30th of its original size.
HP is one of the largest manufacturers in the world and this shift in their supply chain strategy has complex implications. By leveraging their “Multi-Jet Fusion” technology HP will be able to disintermediate unnecessary steps in their supply chain. Because this shift will make certain roles in the supply chain unneeded these positions will quickly fall out as their inefficiencies are realized.
Hewlett Packard recognizes the value of immediate prototypes and flexible means of production which don’t lose value in relation to the demand of a single product. 3D printing technology will not only serve their immediate needs, but will also be an investment in the future as the technology is adapted to future product lines with similar results. By making this shift Hewlett-Packard is taking many steps towards designing an effective supply chain for the future. Shortening their pipeline inventory and decreasing production time allows them to handle dynamic sales volume effectively which is often the most costly aspect of operating a supply chain. The shift to 3D printing will allow them to maintain customer service and quality expectations while lowering their own costs and gaining an edge over their competition. And taking advantage of innovative technology like 3D printing will give them a supply chain that is very advanced and unique.
3D printing technology has the potential to completely disrupt supply chains as we know them. Consumers have the ability to produce products in their very own homes with the proper technical knowledge which disintermediates the entirety of a supply chain. By taking advantage of this innovative technology now, Hewlett-Packard is gaining all of its advantages and better positioning itself for the future. It will be interesting to track the success of this decision and the role of 3D printing technology in supply chains in the future.