Article by Cathy Morrow Roberson from Transport Intelligence - Published on August 1 2013
3D-printing has made its official debut in the US logistics market. UPS’ subsidiary, The UPS Store, announced it will test 3D printing services in-store beginning in the San Diego area. Targeting start-ups, small businesses and retail customers, the service will be able to produce items like engineering parts, functional prototypes, acting props, architectural models, and fixtures for cameras, lights and cables. According to Michelle Van Slyke, vice president of marketing and small business solutions at The UPS Store, “start-ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners may not have the capital to purchase a 3D printer on their own, but they may have a need to show prototypes to their current and potential customers. By offering 3D printing capabilities in-center, we’re able to help further our small business customers’ opportunities for success.”
Indeed, Transport Intelligence has been monitoring this emerging trend. In 2012, Ti’s CEO, John Manners-Bell and Ken Lyon, CEO of Virtual-Partners Ltd. authored the white paper, “Implications of 3D Printing for the Global Logistics Industry”. According to the white paper, implications for the logistics industry are numerous and could include lower levels of inventory, increase in near-shoring as well as the possible emergence of a new sector within the logistics industry – the storage and movement of raw materials that feed into 3D printing.
UPS’ response to this trend appears to be that of embracing this possible new sector within the logistics industry. But of course, it is still too early to determine and while the company is only testing it at select UPS Stores, it is likely demand will increase for such services.
Targeting the SME segment is a smart move – 3D printing will help level the playing field and allow these businesses to compete against larger companies. By utilizing this service within UPS Stores, SMEs could also partner with UPS for additional services such as shipping, logistics services and expansion overseas. The US SME segment is a large one, comprising of over 28 million businesses and accounting for almost half of the country’s gross domestic product. Other logistics providers such as FedEx and DHL are also targeting the SME segment but differently. By offering an innovative solution such as 3D printing, UPS has not only provided a unique and compelling service offering but it also has officially ushered the use of 3D printing into the US logistics industry.