Amazon Prime Air for Manufacturers

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Just-in-time inventory (JIT) helps manufacturers to curb waste and control costs. By receiving goods as they’re needed during production, JIT reduces inventory overhead. There’s a catch, however. Manufacturers must forecast demand with accuracy. Suppliers must deliver on potentially tight timetables. Amazon Prime Air promises deliveries in 30 minutes or less, but will this service meet the needs of manufacturers?
When Amazon announced Prime Air in 2013, the e-commerce giant explained that members could order packages weighing up to five pounds and receive them via drone in half-an-hour or less. Amazon executives have indicated that Prime Air will be ready for primetime as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets standards for commercial drone use, a step that’s expected by the summer of 2016.
In the meantime, the Seattle-based company has dazzled its fans with a YouTube video that explains how Amazon Prime can solve consumer challenges. In a scenario described by Jeremy Clarkson, the former host of a British TV series called Top Gear, a dog has eaten a child’s soccer cleat. Soccer practice is in 30 minutes, but there’s still time to order and receive a new pair of shoes from Amazon.

The drone that’s shown in the video features a cargo hold and fans that move the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) both vertically and horizontally. The UAV’s design is sparse, but Clarkson promises a “family of Amazon of drones” that will include “different designs for different environments”. What’s unclear, however, is if any of these aerial vehicles can transport lightweight items that are larger than a shoebox.
In industries such as automotive and aerospace, product designers are replacing heavier metal parts with lighter-weight plastic components. At the same time, 3D printing is revolutionizing rapid prototyping. Amazon Prime Air can’t deliver high-volume quantities of steel billets, but could this service support innovations in plastics fabrication and additive manufacturing?
Image Credit: Amazon/YouTube


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