Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A 21st Century Military Supply Chain

The article entitled, 'Atoms are the New Bits' is extremely relevant to our understanding of supply chain management because new technologies are revolutionizing the significant steps in the supply chain, including design, manufacturing and distribution.  Nowhere are the applications greater than in the military.

Military units stationed on land and sea are exposed to vulnerabilities in the supply chain.  How food, ammunition, medicine and supplies are delivered is of critical importance.  Disruptions in the supply chain can lead to catastrophic consequences.  This technology revolution that extends to rapid prototyping, custom designs and instant 3d printing manufacturing provides a new and potentially more secure method of servicing our military troops.

The significance of this new-age supply chain cannot be understated.  This new supply chain affects medical care, military budgets and safety. 

Military units exist in remote parts of the world and suffer traumatic events that require immediate attention.  3d medical applications may soon extend care to the battlefield where replacement joints, tissue and body parts can be produced. 

Our gloated budget, due in part to Defense Spending, may be reduced because of the cheap and rapid nature of prototyping weapons and supplies.  Instead of investing tremendous resources in a risky product, rapid prototyping can produce a small run of beta products, that can be analyzed to determine if a larger production run is required.  Lastly, a unit whose weapons are malfunctioning are extremely vulnerable.  With new forms of product design and 3d printing, replacement parts can be designed and produced immediately.  This increases the safety of vulnerable military.     

Although there are numerous benefits, these evolutions in the military supply chain raises numerous questions.  First, how would these rapid prototyping techniques and cheap manufacturing methods affect local districts that have large government projects?  In other words, is an unintended consequence of this new supply chain methodology that government contractors lose their jobs?  Many technologies that society enjoys were developed and perfected in the military.  How can we encourage public investment in these new technologies in order to enhance the 21st century military supply chain?

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