On-demand manufacturing: a new approach to traditional production

On-demand manufacturing
On-demand manufacturing

In the world of consumerism, business leaders who want a more sustainable manufacturing process have implemented on-demand manufacturing to decrease the number of materials and products generated each year. For example, in the fashion industry, approximately 10 billion garments are produced each year, of which 92 million tons end up in landfills.

Therefore, in spite of the businesses that produce continuously, SMEs have come up with the idea of making a product only after its order has been received. This method is quite beneficial for businesses since there is zero risk except for inventory costs of raw materials, but many other expenses are eliminated. So, here’s how to implement this approach for your business.

On-demand manufacturing
On-demand manufacturing

The problem with traditional manufacturing

Traditional manufacturing, or mass production, has become ineffective and unnecessary in our world, and it’s a poor practice, especially in fast fashion. But this traditional method was built to support the demand of enormous businesses, which is why most of them end up over-producing products. This not only has a negative impact on the sales margin but it’s also affecting the environment.

 

The wasteful practice of overproducing is still done by outsourcing production to countries where production costs are low, and by ordering higher quantities of products, the cost per garment is reduced due to the economies of scale. The products not sold initially will be thrown away or disposed of at discount prices. On the other hand, on-demand manufacturing is a more environmentally friendly approach to producing clothes and products, since fabric utilization is maximized.

How to implement on-demand manufacturing into your business

This innovative approach might make business owners question its feasibility and cost-effectiveness in the long run. But if you want to adopt better practices, here’s a piece of advice:

  • Create advanced online platforms that allow customers to communicate with manufacturers. So, cloud-based technology is a must;
  • Use low-cost manufacturing technologies (CNC machining and 3D printing) that are more compact and inexpensive;
  • Use cpq software to configure, price and quote the right way so you can eliminate errors from the pre-production process.

Most of the time, in the manufacturing process, businesses might have trouble with the quotation, for which they lose time on more complex products. At the same time, many documents and procedures can be tedious and can increase the occurrence of human errors. On the other hand, such miscalculations can lead to more severe issues, such as work-related illnesses for workers.

Therefore, choosing cpq software for manufacturing processes can eliminate these mistakes. Moreover, you’ll be able to forecast your business path and take proper decisions regarding your pre-production mechanism. Your team will be better prepared to take upon tasks by simply checking the business platform, along with managers, who will be able to establish better and more efficient practices.

Benefits of on-demand manufacturing

If you’re skeptical of what this on-demand approach can do, know that some businesses have already adopted this method and are thriving. For example, Freedom Rave Wear and Neems are two companies that implemented the micro-factory model that carries all products in their local factories. The owners of Freedom Rave Wear were struggling at first. Still, after some time, they got a laser cutting machine and a sublimation fabric printer, which allowed them to reduce the amount of dead inventory but still keep up with customer demand.

This is only a tiny example, but here’s how on-demand manufacturing can benefit your own business:

  • You eliminate leftover materials and the need for discount excess inventory;
  • You lower the risk of having a markdown at the end of your selling season;
  • Your business will have a quick turnaround since the lead time is from one to ten days from the moment the order was placed;
  • You can test your products and see how customers react to them;
  • It’s more accessible to launch a new product;
  • There is no minimum order quantity, so you don’t have to order more raw materials that you can afford or need;
  • You have a better cash flow since you’ll have a consistent margin;

Challenges of on-demand manufacturing

Like any business model, this, too, has some challenges that you’ll need to overcome once you decide to adopt it. For example, there might be insufficient in-house expertise since companies need to fill a considerable knowledge gap between traditional CAD designs (computer-aided designs) and newer technologies. But the solution to this problem is to adopt a generative design procedure and ensure your employees are trained.

Then, one of the biggest issues is the lack of standards and regulations for on-demanding businesses because the switch is not widely known or accepted. Since this change seems like a technological revolution to some, 3D printing and CNC machining are not verified by a certain authority to become certified since some of these systems are still not winning over traditional machinery. That’s because of their low-resolution put, and the imperfection of the materials used that result in a low-quality final product. But this sector has the potential to be standardized to advance its development.

Thirdly, there’s an uneven development of the market. In other words, customers too lack knowledge on how their products are manufactured and what better alternatives they could choose. This way of thinking comes from a place of comfort since nowadays you can find anything in a cheaper version, shipped faster, but that’s not a sustainable practice. We’re used to purchasing off-the-shelf products that have mass-produced, but they are provided with warranties and adequate tests when an on-demand manufacturer isn’t able to test and fine-tune a product.

This will decrease a customer’s trust, but that doesn’t mean it’s someone’s fault. This innovative technology will get attention at some point, and from there, an official framework will be created to support on-demand businesses.

Closing thoughts

For now, this new approach to manufacturing might seem out-of-the-way, but it’s a better and more sustainable method of producing. However, it requires businesses to be prepared to face the challenges of working independently, and it might not be a viable choice for this moment. But we’re curious to see how on-demand manufacturing will develop. What do you think?

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