Major Changes Ahead
THE DIRECT IMPLICATION of this is an extensive disruption in global supply chains with jobs in manufacturing, logistics and warehousing being affected across many countries. Along with these, cargo transportation and port configuration would also be transformed due to the changes from economies of scale to the economy of one or few.
With such a drastic technological tsunami in the manufacturing landscape, land-zoning policies might have to be reassessed. On one hand, 3D printing could potentially eliminate many large-scale assembly plants. On the other, many small and medium enterprises could serve as 3D printer services, now producing bespoke products.
Would it then still make sense to retain the current divide between industrial zones and non-industrial areas? Countries that have allocated huge resources in the development of industrial estates, with the intention of attracting manufacturing plants to create jobs, would be required to get back to the drawing board to reconceptualise future manufacturing plants.
And such changes may motivate a review of initiatives such as Make in India, even with record-breaking FDI pouring into the country. Given such rapid technological changes, this particular initiative may not necessarily translate to greater job creation despite being a few years away from a “printed economy”.
Even the factory of the world, China, will not be spared the shocks of this new wave. With the advent of 3D printing technology, the industrialisation blueprint for southwest China would necessitate more than just cost competitiveness or the excellent infrastructure that the country has created on its east coast over the last 30 years.
Another current initiative likely to be affected is ASEAN’s Economic Community Blueprint 2025. Its key objective is for the region to become a highly integrated and cohesive economy by enhancing regional participation in global supply chain networks. But, again, the pursuit of global supply chains in the manufacturing sector will need to be critically re-examined.
3D printing may well necessitate transformation beyond the manufacturing sector. It will directly affect urban planning and land usage policy; sea and airport development for cargo; and perhaps, more importantly, job creation for the masses in developing countries as a pathway to upward mobility.
All these potential upheavals prompt the fundamental question – do we need to recalibrate our economic aspirations in light of such influential technology?