Additive Manufacturing Impact on Supply Chains

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Does your supply chain leverage additive or 3D manufacturing? Although the technology has been around for a long time, it has just recently become mainstream.  

A couple years ago, The Global Supply Chain Institute stated in their Supply Chain Technology Best Practices report, “Some supply chain professionals predict 3-D will eventually rival the impact of Henry Ford’s assembly line. Other experts we talked with think the applications will be very, even extremely, limited in the near future.”

3-D printing starts with an object represented in digital form and the process applies materials in an additive manner, unlike the old CNC technology that removed material. Manufacturers across various industries are investing in additive manufacturing.

Maine Pointe, a member of the SGS Group and global supply chain and operations consulting firm recently shared five ways 3D printing will have a massive impact on the supply chain and drive competitive advantage.

  1. Decentralize production – The ‘portable’ nature of the technology will enable businesses to take production to local markets or customers faster. As a result, we will see a shift away from mass production in low-cost countries in favor of more local assembly hubs. Companies will have the capability to produce components closer to home rather than rely on imports. This is especially important during times of geopolitical tension, such as right now with the trade tariff tensions impacting the costs globally.
  2. Drive product customization – As a tool-less process, 3D printing technology gives manufacturers unprecedented freedom to tailor offerings to clients’ specific requirements and enhance the customer experience. This will result in more agile supply chains which can rapidly adapt to changes in the market. Eventually, we could see design, production and distribution merge into one supply chain function with greater client involvement in the entire design and production process.
  3. Reduce complexity and improve time-to-market – 3D printing technology consolidates the number of components and processes required for manufacturing. This will have a significant impact on global supply chains, decreasing complexities, saving on production costs, enhancing lead times and improving time-to-market.
  4. Improve resource efficiency – 3D printing is a ‘greener,’ more energy-efficient and cost-efficient production method. It creates almost zero waste, lowers the risk of overproduction and excess inventory and reduces the carbon footprint. It takes ‘Just-in-Time’ manufacturing to a new level.
  5. Rationalize inventory and logistics – As ‘on demand’ production becomes the norm, the need to transport physical goods across countries and continents will reduce. Combined with the lower number of SKUs required for production, this will have a major impact on warehousing and logistics and will have the potential to overcome tariffs.

At APICS Milwaukee we are excited to be hosting an event on the topic of 3D Printing November 6th at BigSystems. Register for the breakfast tour today because space is limited!

BigSystems is a nationally recognized “Value Added Reseller” of Wide Format Digital Printing and 3D Additive Manufacturing equipment, software and supplies. They address equipment and supplies as components of a total integrated solution.  While other suppliers have a specialty or focus, they are a one-stop resource, representing the largest hardware manufacturers with a broad line of Aqueous, Solvent, Eco-Solvent, UV-Curable, and Latex, roll-to-roll, flatbed and 3D Additive printing solutions.   

At APICS Milwaukee, we are proud to serve supply chain professionals in the Milwaukee area. We look forward to seeing you in November and helping you learn more about the latest technologies. Visit our website for more information on our events and education opportunities.  

Trade Tariffs and Supply Chains

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

Are you concerned about trade uncertainties? Do you expect the new EU tariffs to impact your supply chain?

Per the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Q3 Outlook Survey, “Trade uncertainties were the second most mentioned concern facing manufacturers, with 63.4 percent of those completing the survey reporting it as the top company issue.”

Trade tariffs certainly impact on global supply chains. The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) discussed this recently in an article on how new tariffs could impact technology and agricultural supply chains. They state that, “tariffs between two major economic powers present serious risks to industries and economies around the globe. Organizations in both countries, as well as their customers, must consider how to best manage this global market risk. For some, the answer may be to diversify their supplier bases; others may decide to reshore, redesign their products or services, or adopt other strategies.”

Last week, the Trump administration confirmed tariffs on EU goods went into effect on Friday. SupplyChainDive provided the following summary of the new tariffs:

  • The U.S. will levy tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of EU goods according to an announcement from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) hours after the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a decision authorizing the U.S. to levy tariffs of up to 100% on the goods. New tariff rates will be limited to 10% on large civil aircraft and 25% on agricultural and other products, according to USTR, beginning on or near Oct. 18.
  • The conflict at the heart of today's WTO decision has been ongoing since 2005, when the U.S. first made its case to the WTO claiming low interest rates granted to Airbus were tantamount to subsidies for the aircraft maker. According to the WTO's ruling today, those actions are seen as damaging to U.S. interests in the eyes of the WTO and it is, therefore, the United States' right to levy tariffs in response.
  • Items subject to duties include aircraft parts, luxury apparel, cheese, seafood and steel, among others. The bulk of the tariffs will be levied on imports from France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom — "the four countries responsible for the illegal subsidies" according to USTR.


Although the impact on US supply chains is unknown, supply chain managers should have a plan to understand the risk to their goods and services and a plan to mitigate where possible.

At APICS Milwaukee we are excited to be hosting an event on November 14th to address the new trade tariffs and the impacts on supply chains. Participants will get a chance to hear from Tom Degnan, Director of Global Transportation and Customs Compliance and expert on the tariffs. There will also be time during dinner to discuss this important topic with their peers. We'll also get a chance to tour Bentley Worldwide Packaging and complete the night with dinner and networking.

More information and registration can be found here on our website: HOW THE NEW TRADE TARIFFS ARE IMPACTING THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN.

At APICS Milwaukee, we are proud to serve supply chain professionals in the Milwaukee area. We look forward to seeing you in November and helping you have a plan to mitigate global tariff risks.

Agility of a Company Dealing with Growth or Decline

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Is your company flexible to change course or strategy when needed? How do you address changes in demand or supply?

Change is the only constant, so businesses have to be nimble to be able to adjust as needed and be successful. Recently at an APICS Milwaukee Breakfast Roundtable, we discussed this topic and best practices on how to ensure agility during times of growth and decline.

The topic was requested by a roundtable participant and plant manager. Since the manager has taken the reigns, the plant has gone from preparing to close the doors because of the decline of business to struggling to keep up with rapid growth. Their success has been used as a model of the use of lean tools and APICS certification and key elements included:

  1. APICS training: This transition painfully happened with a dedicated management team educated in APICS training. More than half of their team is certified and the manager was commended for her leadership and style that made the journey.
  2. Operational organization: One of the most important aspects of their successful manufacturing operation is proper organization. This is due to swift changes in circumstances such as consumer preference, demand, and production. Maintaining organization allows production to be flexible and prepared for a change at a moment’s notice.
  3. People development: People are essential within the operation, which is why it is important to constantly monitor the impact of human capital. Dedicated employees possess skills, information, and the drive to enhance productivity and improve. Locating and keeping potential leaders took them from the decline and are the catalyst for addressing the rapid growth. They also leveraged techniques to manage labor hours for employees not able to work 40 hours a week and filled the gaps with proper training.
  4. Vendor relations: Vendors are another important link in the agility of a company dealing with growth or decline.  Your vendors have to be flexible and understanding. This relationship comes with open and honest communication.

At APICS Milwaukee we host breakfast roundtables twice a month on today’s most pressing topics. Our time together often includes company tours and sharing best practices to help each other grow and be successful.

We are excited to be discussing the topic of 3D Printing and additive manufacturing at our next breakfast on November 6th where we are planning to tour Big Systems in Menomonee Falls. Click here for more information on the event. Hope to see you there!

Roundtable Discussion: Procurement Best Practices & Finding Good Suppliers

Photo: APICS Milwaukee Breakfast Roundtable

Are your procurement processes maximized? Do you have the best possible suppliers?

If so, you are in good company! Last week in the intimate setting of our Breakfast Roundtable, we talked about procurement best practices and how to find good suppliers.

We started the discussion by sharing that most buyers and companies really value the following in their supply base: Price, Quality, On-time Delivery and overall Great Service.

Service is a newer consideration because there is a lot of value that can be added to your business by receiving great service from your supply base. It is hard to put a firm monetary number to having a supplier with great service but there is definitely a cost or cost savings depending on if the service you receive is good or bad.

For example, when a supplier doesn’t respond to RFQs (Request For Quote) in a timely manner or doesn’t answer an email about a question that the buyer has for a day or two, the delay can affect the overall performance level of that company. When companies are competing against other companies like Amazon, speed and price is everything and so having a good supply base is critical.

Another key best practice is to work closely with your suppliers to make them a strategic partner. The old school Purchasing Managers method was to pound your fist and scream at your suppliers to give you their products or services faster and at a lower cost. Sadly, the supplier was the enemy! This approach may work for a short period of time but a better long term strategy is to make them a strategic partner and here’s some reasons why.

  1. As a buyer, there may come a time when you need materials expedited or price reductions. There is likely going to come a time when a buyer is going to need materials expedited because of an internal QA issue or they forgot to order the parts on time. If you beat up on your suppliers they are less likely to jump through hoops for you to get you what you need. They might also be less willing to give you a price decrease when raw material prices drop or absorb costs when they go up.
  2. Suppliers often have a ton of knowledge about the parts or raw materials that go into your application. This knowledge has the potential to save your company a lot of frustration and money. One example could be that your supplier of steel weldments asks if they can use a tab and slot method on your parts. Having a supplier that makes suggestions like this can be very valuable in a couple of different ways.
    1. First, using tab and slot is a good method to implement a Poka-Yoke system which is going to ensure that the supplier assembles and welds the parts the correct way every time saving you scrap and longer lead-times.
    2. Secondly, using a tab and slot method often allows the supplier to assemble the parts faster which means there is less labor and cost going into each part. This is a win-win for the buyer and supplier!
  3. Suppliers can alert you to more readily available material in the market that is better than what your company currently uses and it is a lot less expensive because it might be easier for your supplier to make. Raw steel is a good example of this. Any thickness of steel can be ordered and made but if you are able to use a standard size the price will be much lower due to availability and its ease to produce.

Strategic alliances between buyers and suppliers can be a very abstract and “sticky” relationship. The relationship is always evolving and can either be growing stronger or weaker. It is very difficult to put a monetary number on a relationship like this but you definitely feel the pain and costs when it is not going well so it is important to constantly nurture and grow these relationships.

At APICS Milwaukee we host breakfast roundtables twice a month including company tours and sharing best practices to address today’s supply chain challenges. We hope to see you at a future roundtable always posted on our website at:

Manufacturing Day – October 4, 2019

Image by ainthome from Pixabay

This year’s Manufacturing Day is October 4th, 2019. Are you interested in learning more about Milwaukee area manufacturers? Manufacturing Day is a great way to do just that! Read below for more information on the activities planned in the Milwaukee area.

MFG Day is organized by The Manufacturing Institute—the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers. Launched annually on the first Friday in October, and with events continuing throughout the month, MFG Day helps show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders.

Per the Manufacturing Institute, “Over the next decade, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs—jobs that are high skill, high tech and high paying. These career opportunities include high pay and exposure to cutting-edge technology and innovations.

MFG Day aims to showcase the diverse career opportunities available in the manufacturing industry and connect with America’s future workforce—students. Last year, more than 80 percent of students said they became more convinced that manufacturing provides interesting and rewarding careers after attending these events. Events large and small will highlight how modern manufacturers are solving tomorrow’s challenges today!”

There are 67 MFG Day events planned across Wisconsin this year at companies including Rockwell Automation, Waukesha Metal Products, Weld-Fab Mfg, Maysteel Industries, LLC, J.W. Speaker Corporation, Fisher Unitech, Eaton - Watertown Manufacturing Facility, Kapco Metal Stamping, John Deere Horicon Works, and more!

More information on 2019 Manufacturing day and scheduled events can be found at:

Your local APICS Milwaukee Chapter is the premier professional association for supply chain management, representing over 180 Milwaukee area companies.

If you are unable to attend an event at this year’s Manufacturing Day, we encourage you to JOIN US in Appleton on October 8th for dinner and a TOUR of Pierce Manufacturing: A Division of Oshkosh Truck

For additional information on how we support local supply chain professionals, check out our website at: We look forward to hearing from you and helping you learn more about Milwaukee area companies!