Additive Manufacturing Strategies

German Shipping Giant, TNT is Working to Integrate 3D Printing into Supply Chain

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02-tnt-boeing-747-400erf-hi-res_tcm177-493826Some of the world’s largest shipping and logistics companies are taking note of the rapid adoption of 3D printing technology, and they’re setting their sights on locking down a piece of the action for their customers.

TNT Express is one of those global companies. The company now operates in some 200 countries and first began in Australia in the 1940s with a single truck. By the early 1960s, the company found enough success to be listed on the Australian stock exchange. In April of this year, FedEx announced its intention to acquire TNT Express.

Now TNT Germany says they plan to take advantage of what they believe will be a boom in 3D printing technology, and as part of that strategy, the company is discussing the potential for the technology with various key customers.

The idea is that, working with those customers, the company will being to develop innovative logistical processes to prepare for “the 3D printing era.”

TNT_PRINSEN

Willem Prinsen

To that end, the company has set up a number of 3D printing stations at logistics sites around Germany meant to support the investigation of how to best implement the technology as they see a future where items such as spare parts will be manufactured locally where engineers and consumers need them.

According to TNT, the process means customers will have the opportunity to discuss the process with their experts and examine all the conceivable scenarios as to how 3D printing logistics might play out.

TNT Germany CEO Willem Prinsen says he’s fully convinced that 3D printing technology will have a significant impact on the transport and logistics markets.

“In the coming years, the needs of our customers will change thanks to 3D printing,” Prinsen says. “We want to help shape this future, and are therefore already in intensive dialogue with our customers.”

TNT said the consultation process regarding 3D printing has been tailored to both large enterprises — which have complex supply chain requirements — and SMEs that may currently have little access to the technology.

201409-tnt-menschlicher-lkwPrinsen says that, over the long term, TNT plans to support German customers with their integration of 3D printing in specific production processes.

According to Martin Winand, TNT Germany’s product manager for the company’s Value Added Services 3D Printing project, full integration of the technology in a wide range of enterprises is not far from becoming a reality.

“We expect that there will already be effective application possibilities for our customers in just a few years,” Winand says, “for example in the field of spare parts logistics or by increasing product personalization.”

Are shipping and logistics firms like FedEx and UPS behind the curve when it comes to the impact 3D printing technology will have on their business models? Let us know what you think in the German Shipping Giant forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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