Distributed manufacturing gains traction

Over the past few decades, there has been a trend towards outsourcing from industrialized countries to low-cost countries and lengthening the supply chain, with the aim of reducing unit costs. This trend enabled many low cost countries, new to industrial manufacturing, to build their manufacturing infrastructure and know-how and has also created unintended costs and competition.

With a big push from the COVID pandemic, many large industries are now driving towards near-shoring or in some cases, to reshoring. They realize just how fragile their supply chains are, how long lead times have become, and in some cases, how little protection they have over precious resources and knowledge.

Now, with Industry 4.0, digital twinning, and 3D-printing tools fast becoming enablers of smaller, quicker, and less-complex supply chains, many companies are considering distributed and localized manufacturing strategies. Many of these aren’t new shops; as many as 70 percent of manufacturing businesses in the U.S. are small and medium sized enterprises and are pivoting into new technologies as they become cheaper and more commoditized.

Credit: nist.gov