How Will 3-D Printing Shake Up the HR World?

One of the big emerging technologies that is predicted to have a huge impact on business is 3-D printing. As a result one of the areas that will be disrupted by this technology will be HR. Let’s explore how it will shake up the world of HR.

How business will be disrupted

One area that will be disrupted is manufacturing. According to a study by Frost & Sullivan, called the Future of 3-D Printing—Key Implications to Industries, the whole nature of manufacturing will move from large centers that deal in mass production to smaller centers that deal in customization. 3-D printing allows for major reductions in cost to produce by cutting prototyping costs and times. Inventory costs will be reduced as well as the space needed to store them. Overall production time can be reduced, and waste can be reduced as well.

According to Frost & Sullivan there will be four possible models for 3-D manufacturing. First current manufacturers can move to the technology. Secondly a level of contract manufacturers might develop with the technology. Lowering costs of printers lowers the barrier to entry into the marketplace. Thirdly, an online 3-D trade might get started. Lastly a home-based retail market might develop. In reality all four of these already exist and will do nothing but get bigger. Frost & Sullivan’s analysis “expects the market to witness a three-fold increase in current revenues to reach $21.50 billion in 2025.”

Disruption in HR

Not only will 3-D printing have a potential major disruption on manufacturing and other industries but I think it will have a disruptive effect on HR as well.

  • First, we will have to find people who have the skill sets to work in 3-D technology. From designers to the workers that take pieces out of the printers we will have to have people that are trained in this technology. Businesses are not going to be able to rely on traditional sources of training; they don’t really exist at this time. Companies are going to have to create their own training programs.
  • Secondly, fewer people will be needed to support the endeavor. 3-D printing is something that will be likely to be automated through the use of robotics.
  • Thirdly, unions, which are often associated with manufacturing, will become obsolete, even more than they are today. The changing nature of the workforce, the changing nature of the work, and the reduced numbers will not work in unions favor.
  • Fourth, we will see a large group of independent, perhaps even home based, manufacturers meeting custom demands as the Millennial generation exercises its need for different ways of working.

How might your business be affected?

This technology is not really slated to take off until around 2025, which by the way is a mere 10 years from now. Will your business be affected? How will you be prepared to address the changes? Better put on those thinking caps now.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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