How to improve efficiency in small batch manufacturing

January 28, 2020 //By Jonathan Wilkins
We all appreciate that personal touch, whether it is a thoughtful gift, unique customer experience or made-to-measure clothing. As we value more bespoke products in both commercial and industrial settings, how can manufacturers ensure they meet demand without compromising on efficiency, cost or quality?

The consumer market is becoming a lot more personal; we buy customised products, book bespoke holidays and even see personalised adverts on our social media feeds. According to research by Deloitte, we are also willing to make some sacrifices for personalised products. 48 per cent of surveyed people were willing to wait longer for their product to arrive and 20 per cent of people were willing to pay more for it.


Increasing flexibility

Finding a cost-efficient and productive way to change the production line for smaller scale and flexible production is one of the main barriers to mass customisation. A production line with large, caged industrial robots will be difficult to reprogram and manoeuvre to manufacture a new product and will be very expensive if that product is personalised.

Manufacturers may struggle to find a cost-efficient and productive way to offer these products using their current systems. Swapping production lines to start a new batch is time consuming when using larger, industrial machines. Manufacturers will also find that it is not cost-efficient to make all of these changes to create a very small batch of a product. Moving from an assembly line built for mass production to one for mass customisation can be difficult but there are advantages. Manufacturers that embrace mass customisation find that they can reduce their spare product inventory because they can virtually guarantee that everything they manufacture has been specifically asked for by the consumer.

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