Identifying five areas in any business that requires a 3D print expert evaluation. 3D printing has changed product design, development, manufacturing, and retail – it’s time to see if your business should transition over to using this new disruptive technology as well. From zero inventory to operational efficiency, there’s reasons for any business to at the very least consider what adopting additive manufacturing can do for their brand, company, and bottom line.
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Why Every Business Should Get a 3D Print Expert Evaluation
After our episode where we talked about the possibility of disruptive technology really changing an industry, like we were talking about sports equipment specifically in that particular episode. What got us really talking and thinking and debating about whether or not every business ought to have an evaluation and whether that is some kind of advisory service or an expert review from a design standpoint. We’d also like to mention that this episode on getting a 3D print expert evaluation is sponsored by MakerBot.
We’ve done a couple of these, just taking a look at people’s product lines and saying, “Does it make sense for you to do a 3D print run? Can you do a specialized program with this? Should we really start slower or do a limited run to begin with?” We’ve been looking at it as a 3D print expert evaluating products, but also as evaluating businesses.
Thinking about it, whether or not it’s saving you money from a prototype standpoint. Like, are you spending too much money on that and should you be shifting over to using 3D printing for that, either in house or with a service?
That may be just scratching the surface though. Let’s face it, there are a great many manufacturing techniques, methods and equipment that really have not changed all that much in a hundred years. Seriously. Think about injection molding. I don’t know the exact date that injection molding machines first started, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the early 20th century, whether 1920-30s, somewhere in there is at least when it was happening. Take metal machining, metal lids, metal milling machines.
These things have been around for a very long time. I think you can track a lot of modern manufacturing equipment to the availability of electric motors and electricity that really came in in a major way in the early 20th century. While yes, there are computers that have advanced what those machines can do and computer controlled milling machines, CNC machines.
Yes, that changed things. Still, at the end of the day, you are milling metal or you’re milling wood or you’re molding plastic or forming plastic and stamping metal and forming metal, all that. There hasn’t been a major new manufacturing player on the scene that has changed things as much as 3D printing has, or can. What I mean is the capability, the capability is here and that has changed.
That’s what we really want to caution here, that’s what’s we’re talking about in terms of getting a 3D print expert evaluation. The fact that you may be thinking that it’s too early and you’re just wanting to wait it out and see, but you may find yourself out of business in the process, and for so many reasons. That’s why you really should find ways to evaluate it and walk into it so that you can see if your industry or your product line or your business model or your design process, all of those things, are right for a 3D print transition.
Whether or not you should be bringing those things in house, whether or not you should be using service bureaus. It’s time for you to evaluate I think five areas of the company. That’s what I have come to in my mind. Five areas that it’s time to get a 3D print expert evaluation. There’s probably more, but those are the key ones for me.
3D Print Expert Evaluation on Prototyping Process
I think the first one is very obvious. Your prototyping process. That’s just super obvious. It’s not just, in my mind, from what we’ve been learning and what we’ve been doing for many years now, is it’s not just that it’s the length of time it takes you to prototype. It’s whether or not you’re doing a lot of design iterations. It’s the cost of all of those things. There’s a whole bunch of factors into whether or not you need to evaluate.
It’s not just whether or not you should put a 3D printer in. It’s the overall process of prototyping that needs to be looked at and evaluated. We looked at it from the standpoint on, does this make sense for some of our furniture clients? When you’re talking about very large machines and we need a very large 3D printer and does this make sense.
From our standpoint, it didn’t make sense in that particular case because we could prototype faster with the processes we were currently using and we had all the things we possibly needed and the cost was down. It didn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean in your business that it won’t make sense. It’s time for you to look at that. Whether or not you have looked at it in the past, time for you to look at it again and this time with a 3D print expert to guide you.
3D Print Expert Evaluation on 3D Print Materials
I think the second thing is expansion of materials. It’s time to be really looking at the possibility that the way that you were making something before, you were unable to use materials that had particular properties. Or the way that you are manufacturing something is it limited your capabilities in terms of properties of materials.
Just that, just looking and evaluating what you can make and what properties you wish you had might be just a key way to say, “It’s time for me to test this out,” without going in full force into rebuilding something, remaking something. Let’s test this out and see if there really is either market viability for it or functionality viability or time to change my product up.
3D Print Expert Evaluation on Product Lines and Zero Inventory
I think product line is the most important one you can get a 3D print expert evaluation on because the design of the product, that would be number 3, the design product, how you’re designing products, whether or not the products have the characteristics, like we were talking about in the sports equipment episode.
Now is your time to be able to build in user focused features and functions that you are no longer manufacturing constrained out of being able to design for. Really taking a look at your product line. But taking a look at it from a competitive risk assessment. Can my industry, can my product line be disrupted by an upstart who just starts 3D printing? That’s a really scary idea.
This is not only something that you should consider looking at in terms of your business because of this new technology. I think it’s even more dire than that. If you, as a business, are not looking at this, I think you are really making yourself vulnerable to attack from another company that’s going to come and eat your lunch. While you’re thinking you’re a healthy company because you have all these assets, you’ve invested in all this equipment then you’re doing well with it year over year.
What if your assets are now dinosaurs and the best that they can do is gather dust in some museum? They’re no longer valuable. You can’t sell them for near what you bought them for in the used equipment market. Beyond that, that would be the worst situation because that’s at the end of life and you’re liquidating your company because you don’t have a business anymore. I’m just talking about somebody else taking away market share because they’re offering something you haven’t even considered.
Hand in hand with that product line evaluation is the 80-20 rule for me. The idea that you may be carrying too much inventory in your product line on things that may be serving you well from being a market presentation. Like, “I want to have these things because they show really well in the marketplace and they attract customers to me.” But at the end of the day, nobody’s buying them.
Having an ability to offer a mixed line between 3D printed on demand for those cool things that maybe an extended lead time, like an extra day. We’re not talking about months. Not having any inventory carrying on those products and then having a heavy inventory on the ones that you know are going to sell 80% of the volume. That in and of itself is a super cost savings measure that could change the profitability outcome of your business instantly. That’s where looking at 3D printing from an investment standpoint. I lumped that all in product.
3D Print Expert Evaluation on Operational Efficiency
On number four, I want to talk a little bit further about that operational efficiency. You might be getting really operational efficiency. You might really need to head to a zero waste idea, or low waste because it’s not totally zero either in 3D printing. In some capacities, there are. There’s lower ways to have other types of things that you need to do. You need to look at that from an operation standpoint, like inventory balancing, inventories and operational improvement. Having less warehouse space, having less carrying costs.
All of those things, operational improvements, if that can come from switching over a portion of your line to 3D printing, could be a tremendous difference to your bottom line. There again, expert evaluation. Looking at the return on investment and the cost balancing of that. It’s a different cost model, one that’s not so clear to you because your cost to goods might be higher but your carrying costs might be zero. People don’t understand that.
I can tell you, I just spent a whole week with a bunch of entrepreneurs, trying to explain to them why having inventory for three months is more costly. They need to discount that product and get it out of there faster, that their turns count more than anything else that they can possibly do. You have to run the math for them to get them to see it and understand it.
3D Print Expert Evaluation on Designing for 3D Printing
Number five is the obvious one and that’s design. It’s just obvious that it’s going to change the way we design and it is already changing the way we design. Its capabilities are so strong. You have to be looking at those stacking S-Curves. We talk about that all the time. What is your future? Where is your advanced research? Where is that going?
Maybe that doesn’t mean that you have somebody in house to be looking at that for you. I really love the Moxie model with John Rich because that really set up a precedent that you could have someone who’s already an expert in 3D printing analyzing it and looking at it and saying, “Is this right for my business? Is this right for my product? Is this right for my customers?” And not be having to bring this in house and spend years in advanced research.
First off, getting your feet wet and then getting a capability in 3D printing and then figuring that out. The flip side of that is is that it’s almost easier and better to have it be an outside perspective. I that that is really so underrated an opportunity for existing businesses, to have a fresh set of eyes come in from the outside and take a look and analyze and make suggestions. I think companies don’t realize it and they get so closed off.
You have, again, that not-invented-here syndrome is certainly a big problem as well with them. You just get set in your ways. You have blinders on, you have paradigms. I think just as an efficiency move for a company. Yeah, you’re the owner of a company. You can assign someone to champion a project and go and do research and get it done. It will not get done as fast or as well as if you hire someone from the outside who has that expertise and knowledge already.
Because they have to learn everything from the industry and then they have to apply it and then they have to not honestly be performing for you. There’s that pressure. In advanced research, it’s just not a pay for performance job. That weights on a lot of people, that pressure to do that.
That’s why I love the Lowe’s Innovation Lab, the fact that they have that separated and out. It has its own different funding model in a sense and its own different budgetary. It removes that pressure from them, which is why they’re able to really explore these things and apply them faster than other companies.
It’s really smart for a company that big to allocate what’s probably a very small percentage of their annual budget to something like that. That’s probably the best way to do it if you’re going to do it internally and not hire outside experts, is to build a Skunk Works of sorts within your company that is on an island or in a silo, to be able to do it without the day to day pressures of the rest of the business and the performance requirements, etc.
Final Thoughts on Getting a 3D Print Expert Evaluation
If you’re not that big or if you are really just concerned about, “I got to have a future business plan. I’ve got to make sure that I’m future focused on where I’m going and all this investment money that I’ve taken in or this investment in time and my profits that I’ve built into my own business. Is it going to have longevity? Am I at risk?” This is the time for you.
This is the perfect time actually as the market is shifting. We believe in 2017, the bigger shift is going to happen. As we head into that, this is time for you to get that expert, that 3D print expert evaluation or that assessment if you want. Have somebody just come in, give an evaluation, give a report on where they see it going, how you fit within that, how your business fits within that.
To be frank and honest with you guys, we’re looking for good companies who are interested in that. We’ve been looking for them for a while. We’ve had a couple little small ones that are cool and interesting. Certainly we’ve helped them shift their prototyping or shift their product line and do those things. I think we’re looking for a bigger model of someone who’s really concerned and really wants to do something advanced.
If you guys know anyone or you’re out there and you are one, please contact us. Let’s talk about this because we’d love to discuss it further. So much opportunity and, I think, so much risk for not considering it. I think every business needs to realize, doing this kind of evaluation or getting an expert analysis is really an insurance policy of sorts.
I look at it as, in a way, you’re talking about how do you value your company? A part of your valuation … This is fuzzy math at best. Don’t get me wrong. People who do valuations for startups or for investment, that’s pretty fuzzy math on the whole. The reality is that the risk assessment side of it is very telling. When you look at a valuation of a company, what forms it the most is how at risk you are of success, of competition, of market penetration. All of those things are out there.
That’s the same thing here. How at risk are you for maintaining your current market position or market value, your cost efficiencies and all of those things compared to new entrants, early entrants or even other businesses who were smarter and got invested faster into this than you did.
You don’t want to be behind the 8 ball. It’s bad place to be. You want to be a leader, not a follower. You don’t also want to be the leader who’s out there in front, paving all the way and educating everyone in the process because that is an expensive proposition. You want to follow at the right moment. It’s a different between the leading edge and the bleeding edge.
We hope you found this of interest. Send us an email, info@3DStartPoint.com. As well as fill out the form if you want that’s on the website. You can also touch base with us on social media @3DStartPoint.
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