Logistics: Moving Into 3D Printing

D/SRUPTION interviews Tomas Lundström from PostNord

No business is safe from the threat of disruption. The rapid development of modern technology has given the business landscape a fast pace of change. Any company that wants to survive must stay ahead of the game. But whilst we can talk endlessly about the need to mitigate the impact of disruptive technologies, it is much more difficult to pin down concrete action points. What can businesses actually do to stay competitive in the modern age?

In a prime example of how a business can harness the power of disruptive technology, PostNord, the Swedish logistics and communications giant, has recently branched into 3D printing. D/SRUPTION spoke to Tomas Lundström, project lead of the 3D printing initiative at PostNord Strålfors, to find out more about the motivation behind this move.

Logic and logistics

PostNord is the largest provider of logistics and communications in the Nordic region. Around a year ago, they made the decision to branch out into 3D printing services, via their subsidiary company PostNord Strålfors. As Tomas Lundström explains, such a focus on technological innovation is important to the wider company as a whole.

“PostNord is always about exploring new technologies, whether disruptive or non disruptive,” Lundström says. “We want to work out how we can add value to our customers, so we look at technologies which we believe can help our products to develop further. As the largest Nordic company today in 2D print, the move from 2D into 3D was not a big step to take.”

Offering 3D printing also provides PostNord with a way of keeping more consumer services in house, says Lundström. “Looking to 3D as a disruptive technology for manufacturing, it really gives us an opportunity to become part of the supply chain, or to take another part of the supply chain and put it inside our portfolio. We have a wide range of offerings in our portfolio so we want to really elevate the experience of working with PostNord as a total solutions company.”

It is a move that has already seen significant success, according to Lundström. “Right now as part of our partnership with Sony Mobile we are printing figurines from Sony. We are also looking at how we can create more innovative businesses by combining their 3D scanning technology with our printing processes.”

An ethos of innovation

3D printing is just one aspect of innovation at PostNord, as Lundström notes. “We also explore the possibilities with other technologies such as AI and Robotics. People see us as a logistics company only but we are a lot more than that. These projects open up the eyes of our customers who thought that we were only in the logistics business.”

As for the competition? Lundström is confident that PostNord has a unique approach when it comes to combining 3D printing and logistics.

“Other logistics companies are working on 3D as well,” he says. “But I think we have a different approach than they do. Thanks to our subsidiary printing company PostNord Strålfors we have the printing in house. This means that we can apply our current processes – just making small changes to adapt them to 3D. We put 3D right inside the core of PostNord’s logistics network in Stockholm, which gives us the benefit of having a whole supply chain inside a logistics terminal with a fully developed logistics network.”

This commitment to providing seamless business solutions is evident in Lundström’s action focussed approach. “I try to stay focussed on the goal and that we are going to deliver this to help our customers rather than just talk about innovation and future,” he says. “When we released the actual official statements of PostNord entering into the 3D business a lot of our customers have asked us how we can help them. Right now it’s a really fun journey.”

3D for the future

As with any project, PostNord’s move into 3D printing was not without difficulties. But these were mitigated by keeping the development within the company, and by the exciting nature of the innovation project itself. “It was logical to keep [the 3D printing service] inside the PostNord Strålfors company,” Lundström explains. “I come from inside the company so I know the whole scope of our businesses. There are always setbacks in all projects, but I think with running an innovation project it is really easy to get people to help you and follow you because it’s so fun and it’s a new experience for other people.”

This positivity around innovation is underpinned by Lundström’s belief in the value of 3D printing. “3D overall is a good thing for everyone,” he says. “I think that with 3D becoming more open the spectrum of offerings will also become wider. More companies will start to realise what you can do with 3D, because it’s not only an additive manufacturing luxury, it’s actually a way for you to develop your ideas, to make them a reality. We here at PostNord will try to be the leaders of this development moving on further because we believe very strongly that this can create a opportunities for a lot of companies, and we want to be the ones to make 3D accessible to businesses and consumers. Thinking about tomorrow, I have two children of my own and we see already in the kindergartens where they start talking about programming and how tomorrow’s engineering will work. I believe that 3D will be a big part of future engineers.”

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