“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” a common phrase we often hear, especially when something in business is working.
I think the opposite is true! Just when your business model is working, it’s time to put effort into shifting gears in the opposite direction.
The reality is that when your business is working, your future competition knows it and is relentlessly working on plans to make their business more efficient in an effort to put you out of business. Furthermore, a lot of industries and products are so commonplace that we tend to blindly accept how they are and fail to think whether they could actually be done better, more efficiently, cheaper or faster.
Let’s take an industry as commonplace as you can image: plumbing. We have all had our pipes get clogged and burst. When it happens, we accept it and most of us just think “it is what it is” and simply call the plumber.
What if we agreed not to accept it? There’s nothing wrong with being a plumber, but I simply don’t agree with the idea that we can’t have plumbing that would never burst or get clogged in the first place. If something goes in from one end, it must come out from the other…pretty much like with our own intestines.
The simple reason why shit gets clogged and pipes burst, is because the system is far from optimized and hasn’t changed for centuries. We have rubber hoses, straight tubes and a few connection pieces, which let your pipes turn 45, 60 or 90 degrees. That’s really it. If you do simple flow analysis of liquid through an elbow connection, you can clearly see turbulence and how inefficient it is.
Without going too much into technical details, inefficient piping diminishes the efficiency of flow, which results in energy loss, which in turn causes higher energy costs and other inefficiencies.
Imagine you are setting up a factory and you could reduce your energy costs simply by optimizing piping on gas, air, water etc. and then 3D print all of them to fit. How would this picture look if it was all 3D printed and highly optimized?
Now, picture the above scenario taking place for every single piping project on the planet, from water lines, to gas pipes, to electrical conduits. You can imagine the scale of possibilities where 3D digitization starts adding value.
I can see countless possibilities where 3D printing could help. And let’s be clear, I know nothing about civil engineering of water pipes or gas lines, but I can assume that we could make pipes swirl, so air could help with the efficiency, or we could simply make pipes more transparent, so you would clearly see problem areas, should your shit get stuck.
Yes, the naysayers will say: “It’s not regulated, it’s too expensive, 3D printed materials are not the same, plumbers would not wish to get into 3D etc. etc.” This is at once true and false. As a business leader, if you are going to get left behind during this phase of 3D innovation, when you already know we have technologies that can solve a lot of these issues, you are stuck in the past and it’s time to wake up. We are entering an exponential curve in price reduction, speed, material development and process efficiency when it comes to 3D printing.
What are the archaic industries where we have taken things for granted to which 3D printing could add tremendous value but maybe the timing wasn’t right, the materials were far too expensive or underdeveloped for that particular application? Leave me a comment or reach out to me! I would like to hear your thoughts.