Hewlett-Packard redesigns SC around 3D printing

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.





4 thoughts on “Hewlett-Packard redesigns SC around 3D printing

  • April 12, 2018 at 11:06 am

    I really appreciated this post as the advancements in digital fabrication has begun to make momentous impacts on our society and the products we consume. Just here at university of richmond I have been a part of advancing the visual and media arts practice program in the segments of digital design and sculpture. The university has recently invested a significant amount of money into some incredibly complex fabrication tools that are truly exciting. These are intricate machines like the CNC router, iLab plastic 3d printer, bosslaser laser cutter, resin printer, and a new powder printer. Each one of these machines costs thousands of dollars but the utilization of these tools amongst students is still very low, which is unfortunate. With the renovation of the Modlin Center for the Arts this summer, these tools should gain far more use and exposure from students interested. I believe it will be incredibly important for process engineers and managers to understand how tools such as these can be used in supply chain management to increase efficiency and build stronger and leaner processes.

  • April 12, 2018 at 8:26 am


    Great post on Hewlett Packard. This is a very interesting company because they are very efficient and have a minimalist mindset. Over the years, their strategy has been to create simple, high-quality products which could easily be manufactured at low costs, and to sell as many products as possible. The topic you discussed fits into this strategy quite well. They developed this “Jet Fusion” technology which they can both sell as an actual printer, but also use in the manufacturing process to make it more efficient. Over 50% of the plastic materials inside of the Jet Fusion 4200 printers will be made using 3-D printing, which will be the largest number of 3D parts in any finished product in the world.

    Attached is a recent article published just days ago discussing the acceleration of industrial 3D printing. The article discussing a large increase in demand for 3D printers from businesses around the world, so much so that these businesses will place multiple orders back-to-back to ensure they can meet the growing demand for these 3D products.

    SOURCE: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/04/09/1467008/0/en/HP-Accelerates-Digital-Transformation-of-Manufacturing-With-High-Volume-3D-Production-and-Applications.html

  • April 11, 2018 at 11:15 pm


    I was hooked as soon as I saw your title discussing 3D printing. I needed a refresher on exactly how 3D printing works. I looked up a popular youtube video discussing the benefits of 3D printing. While the technology for 3D printing has been around since the 1980’s, it has never been as advanced as it is now. Even though the technology for it was created so long ago, its technology is becoming more and more futuristic. While it can advance supply chains extremely quickly, it is also extremely beneficial for the health care industry. This youtube video (attached at the bottom) goes on to talk about all the medical advances that 3D printing is making. It talks about the Ted Talk given a few years ago where they were planning on producing many things, even kidneys, for patients, to be able to speed up recovery times for many more people. While that kind of technology may be over a decade away, the 3D printing industry is making enormous strides toward saving more and more people every day.


  • April 11, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    It’s cool to take a look into the future and see what might come to be. HP is being smart here, as you have pointed out, and is already shifting their supply chain to support 3D printing. I started thinking about your last sentence, posing the question of how 3D printing will effect supply chains and companies. I found an article (www.supplychaindigital.com/logistics/dhl-how-3d-printing-disrupting-logistics-industry) talking about the potential ability for 3D printing to be disruptive to certain industries. The logistics industry that the article talks about is “the part of the supply chain that plans, implements, and controls the storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and the point of consumption.”( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistics) So inventory and how it is held has the potential to be greatly disrupted if 3D printing fulfills its potential. They specifically note how a company that produces highly complex and customized products has the highest potential to be disputed. Companies might have to switch to a “build-to-order” mentality, which would completely change how their supply chains work. Suddenly, 3D printers would cause warehouses full of inventory to become warehouses full of 3D printers. Now, this is all speculation. There isn’t a lot evidence to say that 3D printing will become a dominant force in the coming future, but most people believe that it will fulfill it’s potential because of what it has already achieved. This speculation, however, is functioning like it does in the stock market. People will hear news that pertains to the future, and react to it according on the current day. Companies are trying to predict the future and are reacting to this news that 3D printing will seriously change supply chains. HP has already jumped on board, and I would not be surprised to see more companies follow their lead.

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