FedEx launches 3D printing inventory and repair company Forward Depots

A FedEx and 3D printing venture has been expected for some time.

From 3D printed drone-delivery, to on-demand bureau services, postage and shipping companies are investing in the future of additive manufacturing.

In the latest news from the logistics sector, FedEx has announced that it will be launching a new, 3D printing oriented, company under the name FedEx Forward Depots.

The company is the product of a company-wide structural realignment, dedicated to “customized,” “convenient,” and “intuitive” services.

FedEx and 3D printing

When UPS started offering on demand 3D printing services in 2013, many predicted that FedEx would be quick to follow. A case study from 2014, featuring 3D printed medical implant manufacturer Stryker, in fact shows that FedEx has been paying keen attention to 3D printing, and the idea of “Going local” with manufacturing.

“Currently, some medical device companies are delivering 3D printed implants manufactured around the world to hospitals within 24 hours,” reads the company case study.

“But what about when hospitals have an immediate need for devices that are not stocked in their inventory?”

One answer is installing 3D printers in the hospital themselves. With the more expensive metal 3D printers though, this may never be economical. The answer for FedEx, is responsive delivery services that meet customer demand.

Van, truck, plane, or 3D printing? Fedex is committed to customer deliveries. Image via FedEx
Van, truck, plane, or 3D printing? Fedex is committed to customer deliveries. Image via FedEx

Leveraging speciality

Richard W. Smith, CEO of FedEx Trade Networks (FTN) freight forwarding services, is leading the company’s custom-service driven realignment. In total, five elements will soon be organised under FTN, from same day courier services through to international logistics:

  1. FedEx Custom Critical
  2. FedEx Cross Border
  3. FedEx Supply Chain
  4. FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage, and
  5. The new, FedEx Forward Depots

According to David J. Bronczek, president and COO of FedEx Corporation, the realignment has been made “In order to improve our ability to leverage the unique capabilities of our speciality companies.”

A FedEx Custom Critical truck, for on-demand, same=day delivery. Photo via FedEx
A FedEx Custom Critical truck, for on-demand, same-day delivery. Photo via FedEx

FedEx Forward Depots

The “3D printing segment” of the realignment, FedEx Forward Depots, will encompass 5 interlinked custom services.

Two parts, Critical Inventory and Service Parts Logistics, allow customer to outsource their logistics, supporting a “time-sensitive, high-value service parts inventory.” Service Part Logistics in particular is also designed to meet “demanding Just-In-Time requirements” set by high-value industry lead times, i.e. in automotive.

A third, the FedEx Repair Center, is charged with fixing electronics devices for internal services and external companies. The facility, based at the Memphis HQ, is also currently “working on innovation in the areas of Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) and Robotics,” and looking for interns in the area.

The fourth part, FedEx Packaging Lab, is a research center designed to assess, test and design packaging, helping customers make the most of shipping.

The fifth and final segment, 3D printing, easily feeds into each of the four other areas. Providing quick response production, and a custom devized service.

Drop test of a parcel at FedEx Packaging Lab. Photo by Wayne Risher/The Commercial Appeal
Drop test of a parcel at FedEx Packaging Lab. Photo by Wayne Risher/The Commercial Appeal

Full power portfolio

FedEx Forward Depots will officially start business on 1st March 2018. In closing comments, FTN CEO Richard W. Smith says, “This realignment under FedEx Trade Networks will allow us to offer customers the full power of our wide array of unique and competitively advantaged customized services in a way that is even more convenient and intuitive,”

“I am delighted to lead this organization of talented FedEx team members in delivering to customers the power of the broad FedEx global portfolio.”

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Featured image shows a scale model of FedEx’s T-Rex trailer used to transport “The Nation’s T-Rex” to the Smithsonian in 2014. Photo via 1-87vehicles