The “disruptive” impact of the maker movement on the B2B electronic components supply chain will be, on the whole: Significant or Minimal?
I’ll give an engineer’s answer and say, “it depends.” For now, the potential for disruption in the aerospace industry is minimal because the requirements placed on testing, certifications, origins (e.g., counterfeit parts concern), and compliance assurances (e.g., with regard to hazardous materials and processes) mean that aerospace OEMs will be limited in our ability to utilize maker-sourced components. That said, from a design perspective the maker movement allows for innovation and creativity at the drawing board, and the ability of makers to do rapid prototyping allows for rapid iteration of ideas. A partnership of makers in the design phase coupled with mature aerospace production processes, however, could yield a significantly disruptive impact.
The “Maker Movement” theme embodies the cultural entrepreneurial energy that has driven innovation in all sorts of areas, improving big as well as small companies across all types of industries and markets. A great example is the effect the Micro Brewer (DIYer) had on the established leaders in the beer industry. History has taught us many “makers” will fail, underestimating the complexities they truly needed to address—such as, potentially, the “ability to scale” for growth in supply. In the end though, this path will force those more established companies to raise their own competitive innovative bar to remain Industry leaders.
I just don’t see it in the B2B electronic components space. “Makers,” as traditionally defined, will deploy additive manufacturing (AM) in fascinating ways in the next few years; but they are not likely to fundamentally disrupt major supply chains. For example, electronic components in B2B environments place critical demands on suppliers in terms of timeliness, quality and performance. AM will make (is making) inroads in this space; but at the Maker level, I expect impact to be limited for some time to come. The risk for suppliers is not “makers” but other, robust and well-capitalized competitors who advance in their AM capabilities and take out competitors who are restricted to only “traditional” methods.
Any time you have a wave of innovation taking place that leads to a broad base of new businesses and products containing a high percentage of electronics, the impact on the component supply chain is significant. However, I am not certain that the impact will be all positive. Though demand for components will be greater, it will also be coming in much smaller lots, from many small customers who are inexperienced in forecasting/inventory management, who will have limited finance resources and who may be more apt to buy components online from brokers, thereby introducing greater counterfeit risk into the supply chain. So, there is a lot to be excited about, but a reasonable cause for concern as well.
Quite simply, this type of disruption fosters innovation at the grassroots level and has unlimited potential for ideas to turn into products that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. The opportunity for a company like Jabil to potentially be part of the ecosystem this movement creates is extremely exciting. Many of these ideas will end up as products on shelves, and as such will require a sustainable, flexible and scalable supply chain with speed at top-of-mind to get to market. The maker movement shift is indicative of the accelerated rate of change we’re seeing across all industries today.