Natural disasters, political conflicts, trade policy decisions — all those, and more, can wreak havoc on production and distribution. However, since 2020, global supply chains have experienced unprecedented levels of disruption. If at some point in the last two years you struggled to find and purchase household items that were previously easy to locate (i.e., toilet paper), you know what we’re talking about.
In the last few decades, manufacturers have increasingly embraced just-in-time (JIT) or lean manufacturing to minimize inventory, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. Companies following the lean manufacturing model produce goods “on demand” rather than stockpiling inventory, and often rely on low-cost manufacturing available in other parts of the world.
The JIT model can work well under ideal circumstances. But because of geographical influences, logistical interdependencies, and shipping distances, there are also plenty of opportunities for supply chain problems to arise, such as with the Suez Canal — in March 2021, a large container ship became lodged in the Suez for six days, resulting in global shipping delays and millions of dollars in lost revenue.
According to predictions made by a number of economists, these supply chain strategy woes are likely to persist until the end of 2022. Many experts, however, still remain bullish on additive manufacturing’s potential to relieve many of these pain points.
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