I love this article by Steve Denning on the future of manufacturing – spoiler alert: it's positive! It really got me excited about the future of our industry and the economy.

In the article, The Future Is (Gasp) Manufacturing?, Denning points out the many benefits of 3D Printing and its potential to reinvigorate what we make, how we make it and where. Denning's list includes: Transforming the supply chain, on the spot customization at the retail level, elimination of the spare parts warehouse, custom dental and orthopedic implants, and the individual as an innovator.

As much as I loved it, my euphoria began to fade as my PLM brain kicked in and all I could think was: Are we ready for this? And by we, I mean the design and manufacturing industry.

Technology has given us the ability to create products we never dreamed of just a few years ago. And while they race to incorporate these new capabilities, many companies are still wrestling with how to build safe, quality products that perform as required for a predictable time span. What happens when we can do all that and more, faster and direct to the end user?

As a Dad, the first analogy I thought of was giving a 16 year old boy a Ferrari. Is it really wise to allow him to go that fast when he's barely mastered the rules of the road?

Don't get me wrong, I am all about innovation – and I would love a nice Ferrari – but we've got some work to do before we allow just anyone to get behind the 3D Printing wheel.

What happens when we're working in a real-time, data-driven environment going directly from CAD to part delivery without the error-catching, forgiving processes of document control, blue lines, procurement, manufacturing, inventory, distribution and sales?

What happens when you go from having weeks or months to identify and fix problems, to going from idea to product almost instantly? How does that impact version control? Approval and validation processes? Compliance?

It might be fine for stuffed animals and jewelry, but what about higher risk products like aircraft parts or medical implants? Have we just accelerated our ability to make life-threatening mistakes faster?

I'm not saying manufacturers should avoid 3D Printing or other modern manufacturing methods. What I am saying is that we need to get our houses in order before we embrace them. Any company that still has manual validation and approval processes, paper or email based ECO systems, and is using faxes to update supply chain partners is not ready for a Ferrari.

Now is the time to implement the systems, processes and best practices that will enable your company to take full advantage of 3D Printing and everything that comes with it, and deliver high quality, cost effective, safe products.