On-demand manufacturing is a concept that involves producing goods, products, items, and parts in response to specific time and quantity requirements. It is a good production method implemented to prevent manufacturing and warehousing costs and support the achievement of tight production schedules. Due to its various benefits, On-demand manufacturing is employed to fulfill short-run production demands across many industries. Some of the benefits of on-demand manufacturing include cost efficiency, accelerated turnaround times, and enhanced flexibility in product customization.
On-demand manufacturing addresses the limitations of the conventional manufacturing model and makes it possible to shorten production cycles to produce improved and innovative products at a lower cost.
Table of ContentsToggle
What is On-Demand Manufacturing?
On-demand manufacturing, also called custom manufacturing, cloud manufacturing, or manufacturing on demand, is a manufacturing system where products are made in the required quantities when only needed. In other words, manufacturers may create parts and products quickly and effectively according to internal or market demands rather than producing large quantities of a standard product that may or may not be sold.
By contrast, traditional manufacturing often necessitates the fabrication of large quantities of standard products far in advance, stored in warehouses until they are ready for shipping. This frequently led to surplus inventory and increased costs associated with storage and transportation. However, suppose manufacturers fabricate products when they need to be based on an on-demand manufacturing system. In that case, it can enhance the flexibility and responsiveness to changing market demands while lowering its environmental impact.
Why On-Demand Manufacturing is Growing?
On-demand manufacturing is becoming increasingly popular. Here are some of the reasons for the emergence of on-demand manufacturing.
IT and Logistics Infrastructure Development: Most of our demands can be met on-demand because of IT and logistical infrastructure advancements. As a result, the transition from traditional manufacturing to on-demand manufacturing is entirely natural.
Internet and Cloud-based Technology: Internet and cloud-based technologies are the major enablers of on-demand manufacturing. These technologies facilitate suppliers’ construction of advanced online platforms that enable customers to upload models and obtain auto-generated design-for-manufacturing feedback and accurate quotes.
Reduce Excess Inventory: On-demand manufacturing reduces the need for large upfront investments in inventory, warehouses, and resources, which are sometimes difficult for small businesses and startups. Costs can be better controlled since manufacturing begins depending on demand, eliminating the risk of excess inventory.
Respond to Market Trends: On-demand manufacturing is agile, allowing firms to adjust swiftly to changing market trends and demand. It enables faster design iterations and prototyping, which results in a shorter product development cycle.
Customization and Personalization: On-demand manufacturing suits customization and personalization in high demand. It enables broad product customization without significantly raising production costs or time.
Protect Environment: On-demand manufacturing is a more sustainable and ecologically friendly production method since it reduces overproduction and waste. It is associated with protecting the environment.
The Differences between Traditional Manufacturing and On-Demand Manufacturing
Before comparing traditional and on-demand manufacturing, let’s first understand what traditional manufacturing is and its advantages and disadvantages.
An Overview of Traditional Manufacturing
The manufacturer would receive a high-volume order in traditional manufacturing. Once the production is completed, the parts are placed in inventory for storage. This strategy aims to keep prices competitive by lowering per-unit costs.
This low cost is attainable because a large volume of products reduces fixed manufacturing costs. However, inventory and warehouse stockpiling costs are included in the overall process.
Benefits of Traditional Manufacturing
- Low Unit Cost: Manufacturers may lower a product’s per-unit cost by employing economies of scale.
- Uniform Approach: A large production volume often assures better consistency because all products in that production cycle are subject to the same methods and procedures.
Drawbacks of Traditional Manufacturing
- Long Lead Times: Traditional manufacturing has much longer lead times, ranging from weeks to months.
- Warehouse Stockpiling: Traditional manufacturing necessitates infrastructure for storing physical inventory levels. Such storage necessitates both space and resources.
- High Upfront Cost: The traditional manufacturing approach frequently compels businesses to commit to large minimum order quantities of a product, necessitating significant upfront expenses for order fulfillment.
- Obsolete Units: Traditional manufacturing would cause large quantities of warehouse stockpiling. Then, the product becomes obsolete, which can result in huge losses.
Traditional Manufacturing vs. On-Demand Manufacturing: What’s the Difference?
Now, let’s get into the comparison between traditional manufacturing and on-demand manufacturing.
Traditional manufacturing is based on a financial model that demands the mass production of a few products at the lowest feasible cost. For operational efficiency, businesses require a huge physical footprint to create, store, and maintain products at facilities. The products are stored in these facilities until orders are received and shipped.
On-demand manufacturing, also known as manufacturing on demand, creates products only when and in the quantities necessary. Transitioning to an on-demand manufacturing model provides businesses with greater production flexibility while eliminating the expenses associated with housing inventory. These savings enable firms to develop more customized goods to fulfill the needs of their customers.
On-demand manufacturing also allows consumers to personalize their orders regardless of how complicated the specs are, while traditional manufacturing does not. Because customized manufacturing is required to fulfill diverse medical demands, numerous businesses, such as the medical sector, adopt on-demand production.
On-demand manufacturing allows firms to order flexibly whenever desired and in the exact quantity needed. As a result, firms may order products on a small scale without raising production costs.
Furthermore, CNC machining, 3D printing, and other comparable technologies aid in the creation of many parts and variations to parts more quickly without the need to make adjustments or retool the machine. They allow for the cost-effective production of small-scale orders. Conversely, the traditional manufacturing strategy does not allow for small-volume orders.
Storage and Warehousing Costs
On-demand manufacturing allows customers to produce the exact quantity they require, eliminating the need to warehouse surplus inventory.
Traditional manufacturing follows the principle of economies of scale, meaning that parts are only cost-effective when manufactured in high volume. Thus, companies require warehousing facilities to store large amounts of product, increasing production costs.
Greater Opportunities for Small and Medium-Scale Technologies
The cost of establishing a traditional manufacturing facility is enormous due to the massive number of products typically created, with high machine costs. On the other hand, manufacturing on-demand can make small volumes of products utilizing significantly less expensive equipment. This enables small and medium-sized businesses to establish small-scale manufacturing shops.
The constant interactions between on-demand manufacturing suppliers and users, cost-effectiveness, operational transparency, and short lead times can promote innovation. Inventors and innovators may swiftly develop and produce a single prototype at a minimal cost. However, traditional manufacturing cannot do this.
Advantages of On-Demand Manufacturing
On-demand manufacturing avoids the disadvantages of traditional manufacturing methods because its goal is to fulfill consumer demand. It also provides numerous distinct advantages.
The Advantages of On-Demand Manufacturing
Rapid Prototyping: Cooperating with an on-demand manufacturer makes prototyping simple and flexible, allowing businesses to swiftly iterate on designs before going into production.
Reduced Inventory Costs: Products are made to order rather than stockpiling inventory that may or may not sell. This reduces warehouse space needed and costs associated with storage, inventory tracking, spoilage/obsolescence, etc.
Customization: Products can be tailored to customer specifications rather than making large batches of standardized items. This allows for personalization and better meeting of customer needs.
Flexibility & Responsiveness: The production process can rapidly adapt to demand changes, new customer needs, short production runs, etc. This allows on-demand manufacturing to respond quickly to changes in the market.
Less Waste: Raw materials are only used as needed to manufacture actual customer orders rather than overproducing. This results in less wasted materials, time, and money.
Time Efficiency: Because of the single point of production and decreased time in quotes and lead times, on-demand production gives a better total turnaround time. Because they can provide fast quotations, on-demand manufacturers may receive and deliver orders within a few days.
Cost Savings: Manufacturing on demand eliminates the expenses associated with inventory and warehousing. Products can be shipped straight to customers once they have been made.
Quality Control: Because on-demand manufacturing is done in low volumes, greater control is available, leading to high-quality custom parts. Manufacturers may easily keep higher quality requirements, which are more difficult in mass production runs.
Cash Flow: Because of the design of the supply chain, an on-demand manufacturing model has a steady cash flow. Clients make smaller payments for orders, and improved cash flow aids in the management of other corporate expenditures.
Market Testing: One of the primary advantages of on-demand manufacturers is continuous feedback. They may incorporate immediate customer feedback into the next production batch, rendering on-demand manufacturing the preferred strategy for consumer-focused enterprises.
No Minimum Order Requirements: On-demand manufacturing services allow for the development of customized products and do not require high production volume. As a result, this method’s minimum order quantities are low because the whole business strategy is based on finishing the needed orders.
No Overproduction: There is no overproduction since consumers wait for each item created via on-demand manufacturing. Avoiding overproduction minimizes not just manufacturer losses but also the environmental effect of production.
DFM Feedback: Design for Manufacturability (DFM) feedback informs businesses about defects in their CAD models. A metal product, for example, must have a minimum wall thickness, or it will collapse.
Disadvantages of On-Demand Manufacturing
Although on-demand manufacturing offers numerous advantages, it also has certain drawbacks. Following are some of the process’s disadvantages for manufacturers:
Higher Per Unit Costs: The costs per individual item produced tend to be higher with on-demand manufacturing because it lacks the economies of scale of large production batches. Setup costs per unit are higher.
Supply Chain Dependency: Traditional manufacturers maintain substantial inventory levels to prevent production disruptions caused by supply chain issues. On-demand manufacturing, conversely, is significantly reliant on the supply chain to accomplish its customers’ orders. Manufacturers may struggle to satisfy their responsibilities if the supply chain is disrupted.
High Production Volume: On-demand manufacturing is optimal for small production volumes, such as when introducing a new product or creating a single prototype. However, as consumer demand rises, it fails to perform well in long-term production. Traditional manufacturing is generally more economical due to its reduced unit production costs.
Service Availability: While several on-demand manufacturers provide a comprehensive range of services, others have restricted service availability. If your product possesses a complex design, it may exceed the capabilities of a certain service provider.
Intellectual Property Theft: When you use on-demand manufacturing, you provide the services provider with your design models, blueprints, and CAD models. Consequently, engaging with a malevolent provider or employee makes intellectual property theft possible.
Quality Issue: Some on-demand manufacturers work with clients to settle the details of a manufacturing project before outsourcing the production step to a small-scale third-party manufacturing firm. As a result, there are substantial flaws with the product’s quality.
Typical Processes Used in On-Demand Manufacturing
On-demand projects employ the same manufacturing processes as traditional projects. However, it places a greater emphasis on producing smaller volumes and satisfying consumer demand quickly. Following are some of the typical processes used in on-demand manufacturing.
For any low to medium-batch production, it is an easier, quicker, and more efficient process. CNC machining is frequently the first choice for suppliers looking for long-lasting, accurate prototypes that can be swiftly customized. CNC technology fits well with various materials and provides superior accuracy.
Multiple CNC machines with horizontal or vertical machining centers manufacture high-precision parts as needed. Each of these machines is unique in terms of specialty and design. They are often automated, allowing for greater productivity and shorter production cycles.
Injection molding is another prominent plastic manufacturing process that may be utilized in small or large-scale production. This process involves injecting a plastic-based resin into a mold to manufacture the required part form. It is also a low-cost production process that has low accuracy. This flexible technique requires manufacturers to rapidly prepare a mold by employing CNC machining or a similar method.
Sheet Metal Fabrication
In this process, metal sheets are cut, bent, and shaped to form unique parts or components. Sheet metal fabrication can manufacture various products, including tiny brackets, pipes, and huge enclosures. This method is also used often in other fields, such as robotics and aircraft. Additionally, the process gets results rapidly, which is ideal for on-demand manufacturing where precision and speed are critical.
Laser and Waterjet Cutting
A highly focused laser or waterjet may physically cut sheet metal to give it the desired shape. Both methods are extremely accurate and can swiftly generate the most complicated geometries.
Nothing compares to 3D printing when it concerns faster manufacturing processes. In 3D printing, adding material layers can produce a physical object from a digital model. It distinguishes itself by its capacity to quickly adapt and build complex shapes without requiring time-consuming post-processing.
Stereolithography (SLA), also known as resin printing, optical fabrication, and vat photopolymerization, belongs to a subtype of the 3D printing method. It employs a high-powered laser ray concentrated on a photopolymer resin. The movement of the laser is defined in the CAD files. As each layer of the liquid resin hardens, it transforms into the final part.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused deposition modeling (FDM), or fused filament fabrication (FFF), is another subtype of 3D printing. It employs a wire filament fed through a spool to the printing head, which is melted and formed into the required part while the head moves under computer control.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS represents an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser to sinter a nylon or polyamide-based powder into the required form. Like a 3D printing machine, a computer manages the laser movement. This method is suited for low-volume production as well as rapid prototyping.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
DLMS is similar to SLS, except that DLMS creates the part from metal powder. This method is typically used to make robust, high-performance components that cannot be created using nylon or polyamide.
Applications of On-Demand Manufacturing
Generally, on-demand manufacturing is ideal for industries with fluctuating or uncertain demand, high product customization requirements, and low-volume production. Here are some of the key industries where on-demand manufacturing can be utilized:
Automotive – Automakers can use on-demand manufacturing to produce parts when needed rather than stockpiling parts. Some automakers use on-demand to produce custom interior trim pieces and accessories. Using on-demand manufacturing helps vehicle manufacturers fabricate components at a lower cost and in less time.
Electronics – Electronic devices and components can be produced on-demand to meet fluctuating or unpredictable demand instead of electronics firms having to forecast demand. Customized and personalized electronics like phone cases and headphones can be 3D printed on-demand. This reduces the need for large inventories.
Medical Devices – Medical devices, implants, and other customized products must be as precise and compatible with a person as feasible. On-demand manufacturing retains that accuracy while guaranteeing that consumers receive exactly what they want and when they require it.
Aerospace – Aircraft and spacecraft components can be manufactured on demand, which is useful for a low-volume industry. Spare and replacement parts can also be produced as needed. An on-demand method fulfills the fundamental need of the aviation sector to manufacture customized aircraft components. For instance, engine parts, landing gear, and interior components are highly accurate.
In on-demand manufacturing, parts are only produced in response to specific orders. The core of on-demand manufacturing is really about flexibility and responsiveness. It enables businesses to respond to changing market demands, cut lead times, and create customized products.
Small businesses and startups can benefit greatly from this approach since it reduces the initial investment needed for tooling and setup, enabling low-volume production at cost-effective prices. Nevertheless, large businesses also gain advantages since they can save time and concentrate on their core competencies.
The main technologies are 3D printing, CNC machining, industrial robotics, supply chain software platforms, and cloud computing infrastructure. Together, they facilitate flexible production runs and coordinated supply chains.
Traditional manufacturing processes encounter typical challenges for manufacturers, including extended production times, trouble machining undercuts, achieving uniform thickness, and draft angles.
Traditional manufacturing processes necessitate the building of molds, which raises the cost of product machining. The methods necessitate enormous investments in production, warehousing, and logistics, which affects the ultimate price.