Oracle – the giant software and data services company – has been making moves in 3D printing. In particular, it has been looking at how the technology will affect the future of supply chains. To learn about final part production, Oracle partnered with Carbon last year both by providing software for the connected 3D printing company’s cloud infrastructure and by using Carbon technology to produce some end-use components for its servers. But how exactly will the Oracle 3D printing supply chain affect the future of manufacturing? An interview published by Supply Chain Digital has shed some light on this topic.
The magazine spoke with Dominic Regan, Senior Director for Oracle’s Value Chain Execution portfolio across Western Europe, including Oracle Transportation Management, Oracle Warehouse Management, Oracle Global Trade Management and Landed Cost Management. Regan started at Oracle 12 years ago, at a time when the company was addressing the supply chain as a discipline in its own right.
“From a manufacturing point of view, the physical ability to use 3D printers has been characterized by the ability to create individual, bespoke items,” Regan said. “We’ve seen orthopedic devices for procedures such as hip replacements in healthcare and bespoke facades in construction, but we’re now also seeing the potential realized for its impact in the volume space.
Oracle is particularly interested in the way in which this can change the supply chain. For example, the fact that the ability for personalization and the option to postpone that process means that mass-produced standardized items can be personalized late in the supply chain, when the required components can be created using 3D printing processes. “It [3D printing],” adds Regan, “is also changing the demand that the supply chain can meet and provide”
In terms of demand, the Oracle executive found that the primary driver of what customers want to achieve is not necessarily always related to cost or productivity, but agility. Companies don’t want to find that their ability to react to the market is constrained by their supply chains or by the solutions that support them. They understand how to balance being large and efficient, but can also see the dynamics in the market are changing due to customer requirements and the influence of new entrants to that market.
“What they’re looking at is the need to disrupt with a flexible and agile supply chain to prepare for the unknown nature of how their businesses will transform over the next 18, 24 or 36 months,” Regan said. “From a customer perspective, that flexibility can be met with new developments like IoT and 3D printing offering the chance to assemble solutions that are future proofed.”