The next big threat to trucking – 3D printing

Feb. 2, 2015
This new technology could reshape freight networks quickly, moving manufacturing closer to markets for products with high transportation costs.

With capacity tight and rates strong, it’s a good time to be in trucking, but there’s a threat on the horizon – 3D printing.  By allowing manufacturers to simplify operations and move them closer to consumers, 3D printing “has substantial implications for both domestic and international freight businesses, particularly in reducing the importance of some transportation lanes while possibly opening up new ones,” according to a new report from Strategy &, formerly known as Booz & Co.

2015 Commercial Transportation Trends ranks the risk of 3D disrupting current freight patterns by product, identifying footwear and electonics as two categories with high shipping costs and high suitability for local 3D printing. While air cargo and ocean container businesses have the most at risk, the study estimates that up to one-quarter of all truck freight is also vulnerable to disruption by 3D printing.

 While most transport businesses only react to technological change once “it arrives in full force,” the study offers carriers four options: stay the course, rebalance business to categories least susceptible to 3D printing, adjust networks to take advantage of freight shifts, and create new services dedicated to supporting 3D printing operations.

2015 Commercial Transportation Trends by Andrew Tipping, Andrew Schmahl and Frederick Duiven of Strategy &.

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