Executive InterviewsSustainability

HP’s Nate Hurst offers a perspective on supply chain and sustainable impact

Nate Hurst, HP's Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, talks globalization, sustainability and more

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Recent conversations with key executives within HP Inc.’s 3D printing business have provided a close look at the company’s operations and planned-for disruption of the massive global manufacturing industry. In part one, a discussion with J. Scott Schiller, Global Head of Customer and Market Development at HP 3D Printing, afforded perspective into the company’s internal use of its own Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology for realizable impact. In part two, we look to a conversation with HP Inc.’s Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, Nate Hurst.

Were this chat to have taken place even just a few years ago, anyone could be forgiven for pardoning the forward-looking statements as hype. Fortunately we’re several years past the major hype bubble of ~2012-2015 and looking past PR. Speaking with Hurst offered an insightful conversation about real-world impact and what is happening already in the global supply chain.

For his part, Hurst noted that HP is uniquely positioned as having one of the industry’s largest supply chains, which “gives us the scale to provide realizable impact.” Love them or hate them, it is impossible to deny the global reach of HP Inc. With that reach, though, Hurst acknowledges, comes “real responsibilityand we embrace that responsibility.”

“Our overall approach to supply chain right now is reinventing how we explore and make and source products,” Hurst said. “What moves the community we live and work in forward. Empowering our workers so the people who make our products drive it forward. Optimizing value in terms of elevating supply chain.”

All this, he noted, is the value point where Multi Jet Fusion comes into play.

“We look at our supply chain and we’re looking at whether 3D printing or other technologies will lower our costs, help in terms of speed and getting products to market faster, increase customer satisfaction and improve our footprint or the footprint of our customers,” Hurst said. “We’re increasingly hearing about sustainability and impact on the environment. We look with the same scrutiny at our Multi Jet Fusion.”.

Nate Hurst HP interview

Upon examination and calculated study, the team grew confident. They discovered, he said, that MJF technology “does in fact help us lower costs, helps in terms of speed, in terms of design, and provides opportunities that don’t exist with other technologies in terms of flexible manufacturing.”

For 3D printing to truly have a realizable global impact, for any scale of true disruption, the technology must meetif not surpassthe capabilities of existing offerings. Adopting additive into manufacturing requires a compelling use case, and that’s exactly what HP is seeking to deliver.

“We got really excited and talked with Stephen Nigro’s 3D printing group (you’ll hear this in Scott [Schiller]’s perspective as well) and thought, let’s take a look at how we apply Multi Jet Fusion to our own supply chain,” Hurst told me. “We’re doing that across our businesses: print, personal computing, 3D printing.”

“In applying benefits, we think some will be in reduced warehousing and a more on-demand production approach, reducing scrap, and better supply/demand control overall.”

When it comes to materials consumption, Hurst notes that “as a sustainability officer, that’s something I’m very concerned about.” An oft-highlighted benefit of 3D printing its its ability to reduce waste through additively, rather than subtractively, working with materials, using only what is needed (with some margin of error when generally considering support needs). HP and its customers are both able to realize a reduction in materials consumptiona message very dear to this sustainability officer’s mission.

“We’re looking at reinventing, with some of our partners; our customer conversations with our early adopters of 3D printing are going in the space of recyclability of the materials we’re going to use. One of the things I love about our 3D group is the approach they’re taking toward materials,” Hurst explained. “We reinvent together to make materials that are recyclable.”

HP and its myriad partners through its open innovation platform for materials have been taking a keen view toward this aspect. Furthermore, Hurst underscored, HP is examining the use of 3D printing to reduce fuel consumption and the ability to reuse and recapture materials and get these back into the supply chain.

Looking to specific examples as proof points for these concepts, Hurst turned to the fact that HP’s 3D printers 3D print parts for its 3D printers. Mind-twisters aside, the 4200 system has custom plastic parts inside itand, as Schiller highlighted, the newer 300/500 series contains more than 140 individual 3D printed parts in it.

Nate Hurst HP interview

“We believe that this is the largest number of 3D produced parts of any finished product in the world,” Hurst said of this application. To him, the success story of this application is a “very exciting sign.” These early positive signs, he noted, include the reduction of weight, costs, and carbon footprint.

“If you think about how we’re applying that to just a few products now, the scalability and opportunity ahead is really exciting,” he said.

Looking forward to those opportunities, Hurst noted that HP is staunchly standing behind its bold aspiration to transform the $12 trillion global manufacturing market. “That really is our focus, and we think we’re uniquely qualified to do that,” he said. 3D printing is a major part of that digital disruption.

“HP’s 3D printing can not only help drive what’s been deemed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it can also help drive a sustainability revolution. Our commercial customers, more and more, are demanding high standards when it comes to sustainability and social responsibility. We’re seeing more of this in our RFPs and in initial customer meetings,” he explained.

Hurst, who spends “a lot of time representing HP in forums” around the world, including the World Economic Forum (WEF), is familiar with reports put out regarding the impact of digitization. A WEF report, for example, stated that the overall economic value of digitizing across all industries worldwide will be $100 trillion over the next decade alone. Such findings represent a key underpinning in why HP’s strategy involves applying its 3D printing technology to its own supply chain.

“We see this rapid digitizing in industry. We feel like we’re getting a jump on the competition and where the world’s going to be going,” he said.

From HP’s perspective, the world is currently at an inflection point, one where it seeks to take advantage in “driving the digital revolution forward.”

“Looking at the whole value chain is something we’ve prided ourselves on. With 3D printing, that will only accelerate,” Hurst continued. “It will make manufacturing much more localized, much more on-demand, which will eventually provide real benefits to the planet.”

Another key aspect in this inflection point and in the work toward a stronger, more sustainable future is in upskilling. HP wants to “reinvent the future through” upskilled manufacturers, and is doing a lot of work in education to move that mission forward. “You’ll see us doing a lot more of that as we move our sustainable impact forward,” Hurst added.

I asked about the global implications of these supply chain disruptions and Hurst noted that impact isn’t geographic so much as it is industrial.

HP’s participation in digital manufacturing has drummed up notable excitement among big industrial manufacturers across various verticals and has also been geared toward small- and mid-sized innovators and developers.

“My team ends up working with a lot of entrepreneurs, particularly in developing markets,” Hurst noted, adding that the lower price point of the 300/500 series compared to the 4200 series has been “really exciting” to these SMEs. “HP’s willingness to design printers at different price points excites them, allows the ability to move into the market and innovate there.”

Importantly, the focus is on “not just growing, but growing in a responsible fashion, which is something we pride ourselves on” at HP, Hurst continued. “What we now call sustainable impact has been at the heart of our reinvention journey, fueling our innovation, fueling our growth. If we don’t think this way, our business won’t be strong enough to perform; we’re thinking in the long term. We think what’s good for the environment is good for business and for society.

“Certainly we have unique opportunities in the 3D printing space as this business emerges. In the people space, we truly believe our innovation comes from the diverse power of people, that’s a huge focus for us. We need to bring in diverse mindsets, and really empower people wherever they come from in the world. Technology can play into that. Finally we see that technology can really connect communities to a world of opportunity.”

Closing out our conversation on this global theme, Hurst noted that 3D printing offers opportunities to grow businesses on a global scale.

“These are all things we’re trying to drive forward: sustainable impact is a huge part of our business and our growth opportunities going forward,” he said. “We’ve had significant revenue connected with sustainable impact; there’s a real contribution to the bottom line in terms of this work and contribution, paying off for our business, helping our customers be the hero of their own sustainability journeys.”

[Images: HP Inc.]


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Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke owns and operates Additive Integrity LLC, an editorial services company focusing on the additive manufacturing / 3D printing industry. Previously the Editor-in-Chief of 3DPrint.com, Sarah has been focused on AM since 2014, with a background in industry forecasting, creative writing, and theatre. Sarah is based in Cleveland, Ohio and in airports around the world.

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