What challenges will 3D printing professionals be facing in 2020?
2020 will be the year of 3D printing. All studies concur when they say that growth in the additive manufacturing sector will hit the fast lane in 2020 with a market worth $20.5 billion compared to today’s $4.8 billion.
However, this figure should be put into perspective, since office printers desaigned for amateurs are used by design consultancies and healthcare professionals, for example, instead of the more expensive industrial-grade printers. They currently represent 95% of all machines sold.
Therefore, sector professionals need to make a major effort to educate prospects and raise awareness of the technology if they are to promote their products, services and solutions. Manufacturers have not necessarily reached maturity and are not necessarily aware of the gains that they can achieve by incorporating this innovative technology into their companies.
This article will cover the different challenges that 3D printing professionals will need to address in 2020.
Dealing with a persistently immature market
Although the additive manufacturing market is booming, the bottom line is that the audience is still immature. Manufacturers are not clued up on this innovative technology, they are often caught up in their daily routine and their processes, and they are frequently struggling to modernize their company.
Incorporating an innovation into such companies is a long-winded process with sales cycles that are often slow and labor-intensive.
How can manufacturers cut this major challenge down to size?
Additive manufacturing professionals need to change their game plan to suit their target market as well as promote the technology and educate manufacturers by demonstrating how their products and services can create added value in order to convince them.
Basically, it is a long-haul effort. Professionals will need to support and guide manufacturers throughout the consideration stage of their journey. Additive manufacturing is turning today’s industry on its head. It will take some time until the technology becomes a manufacturing standard.
The market’s lack of maturity can also be attributed to the fact that manufacturers lack training in the associated processes and machines. Many manufacturers claim that the lack of training is preventing them from adopting 3D printing.
It is a fact. Academic syllabuses for careers in industry do not necessarily include modules for gaining skills in using this particular innovation. Therefore, companies need to fork out extra money to train their existing workforce.
As additive manufacturing professionals, educating prospects and training them in using their tools may be an advantage for tipping the scales in the technology’s favor.
Justifying the cost of additive manufacturing for manufacturers
Another major challenge that additive manufacturing professionals may run into is the fact that manufacturers are reluctant to invest due to the cost of the machinery involved.
If any evidence were needed, when manufacturers decide to try their hand at additive manufacturing, many of them tend to buy office printers that are initially designed for amateurs rather than purchasing industrial-grade machines.
Since manufacturers are fairly in the dark about this innovation, many of them still believe that additive manufacturing will be a costly investment without actually measuring the benefits for their company.
Marketing executives working in the additive manufacturing industry will be responsible for educating prospects and making a name for their products, as well as promoting the advantages and benefits for manufacturers.
Manufacturers work with established processes and often in large structures. Incorporating new processes and new design methods is anything but a walk in the park.
To justify the cost of additive manufacturing, it would be a good idea to publish detailed studies on the subject and blog articles demonstrating how this innovation can create value for manufacturers.
Proving the ROI from your solutions
Industry 4.0 is gaining traction. This revolution is committed to meeting the need for unique and customized products while maintaining equivalent costs, despite the low production volumes involved. That is why one of the challenges with this fourth industrial revolution is managing to reconcile customers’ needs with production methods. Reconciliation is impossible without a helping hand from new technologies.
In other words, manufacturers are no longer in a position to turn a blind eye to the latest innovations.
Incorporating new production and design processes is a real corporate project for manufacturers. Therefore, the ROI aspect will play a key role in reassuring manufacturers that they have chosen the right innovation and that they will be able to turn a profit from their investment.
All the tools and devices for convincing manufacturers and providing quantified proof should be put into practice.
It is vitally important to offer customers’ experiences and real-life cases complete with detailed figures to prove the benefits of your products and services.
Beforehand, it would be a wise idea to implement KPIs (key performance indicators) to show prospects that those manufacturers who have already incorporated additive manufacturing are enjoying real gains.
Finally, it may be worthwhile carrying out surveys among your customers and publishing the results for your prospects.
When dealing with an immature target market, it may be hard to create demand.
Generally speaking, today’s buyers would rather do their own research before being contacted by a sales rep.
With this fact in mind, marketing professionals working in additive manufacturing should deploy a marketing strategy for guiding and educating their prospects.
The challenges featured in this article tend to mirror the buyer’s journey for any customer:
The awareness phase corresponds to the fact that the audience is not mature and is often unaware of additive manufacturing.
To raise prospects’ awareness of additive manufacturing, you need to create general content in response to the questions that they are likely to ask at the beginning of the journey, such as “What is additive manufacturing?” and “How can I create prototypes quickly?”
The consideration phase will correspond to the fact that the costs of 3D printing need to be justified.
During this stage, manufacturers will take a closer look at the issue and will begin examining the various opportunities available. Therefore, the cost is part of their assessment.
Finally, the decision phase is when prospects will choose the solution that best addresses their problem. This is the right time to demonstrate the ROI from your products and services using detailed figures and comparative studies.
To generate demand, you need to be present at every stage in the buyer’s journey and hone your company’s image as an expert in its field.
In 2020, 3D printing professionals will need to pull out all the stops to educate and convince prospects if they want to see their products and services adopted by those companies looking to ride the Industry 4.0 wave. The process of popularizing and providing training on this innovative new technology has only just begun!