Sainsbury’s Recognises the Potential of 3D Printing to Change the Landscape of Retail

As one of the UK’s big four supermarket chains, you would expect Sainsbury’s to be on the ball in terms of looking to maintain and improve market share. But these days that goes beyond groceries, clothes and DVDs — way beyond! It turns out that the IT department at Sainsbury’s is also developing a strategy centred around 3D printing and the impact that the company believes this technology will have on the retail sector in general and ‘SUPER’markets in particular.

Rob Fraser is IT director for Sainsbury’s and while giving a presentation at the recent BETT show in London, he gave the audience some insight into the changes he believes are coming with 3D printing, and how Sainsbury’s are preparing to meet this challenge head on. Unsurprisingly, the focal point for this is how customer requirements are changing based on customization options, and his specific expample was iPhone cases — the Samsung and Nokia cases had not been released at the time, which only serves to bolster his point.

Fraser said: “We have to prepare for the fact that consumers may soon not want to buy pre-packaged iPhone cases of the shelf, but build and design their own.”

While Fraser has been aware of 3D printing for some years, it is important to note that his comments are forward looking, but the belief is that 3D printing is coming and it is coming in a big way. But this brings challenges, according to Fraser: “The big challenge is we don’t know what’s coming but we have to prepare for it. Technology is changing at a rate we can’t predict, and if we can predict it, it’s already been established. The technologies we can’t predict will be with us in five years’ time.”

Personally, I’m not quite convinced that his timeline is correct, but this is a fascinating development following the MCor + Staples announcement at the end of last year and I expect some of the 3D printer manufacturers are already aligning themselves to provide hardware and support. The mainstream retail environment is going to be very different from anything that has gone before.

Sainsbury’s is planning to reveal more information about how 3D printing will be embraced within its corporate strategy later this year. The corporation’s “Try Something New Today” tagline, may soon take on a whole new meaning!

Source: V3

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