One of the terms we use to describe what we do here at MacroFab is “Cloud Manufacturing.” We like it because it captures the two most important aspects of our business, the fact that we manufacture electronic products, of course, and the internet-based technology platform that makes it possible for us to produce, assemble, and fulfill orders quickly and inexpensively. But if you aren’t familiar with the idea of cloud manufacturing, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Here are some of the questions we are asked when we bring it up.
What is Cloud Manufacturing?
Cloud manufacturing is the blend of traditional manufacturing processes and modern software solutions to allow customers to place orders, manage their projects, and control their inventory all online. With cloud manufacturing, the entire product lifecycle, from design to delivery is seamless and transparent.
How is it different from the typical approach?
Until recently, manufacturing processes were really designed to support large companies ordering huge quantities of established products. This made even the process of getting a quote painstakingly slow and complicated for most hardware designers. This hassle and delay is eliminated by the cloud manufacturing approach. A cloud-based platform also makes it possible for manufacturers to support small orders and prototyping by combining multiple small orders into one larger one, thereby driving down the total cost of production.
What are the benefits of cloud manufacturing?
Here are just a few:
- Instant quotes
- Real-time visibility and project tracking
- Quick turn-around times for prototypes and production runs
- No minimum quantity requirements
- Low costs
Does cloud manufacturing address fulfillment?
It certainly can. The best providers offer inventory management and fulfillment services, so that you can focus on your core business. You can even find a partner with an API that integrates your ERP or e-commerce system with their platform, so that each time an order is placed, it is automatically packaged up and sent off to your customer.
Who uses cloud manufacturing?
Anyone who wants to order PCBs or finished products in quantities of 1 – 10,000 can use cloud supported manufacturing. We find that many clients are Kickstarter creators or other entrepreneurs. Small businesses also turn to cloud manufacturing because the model lets them focus on what they do best: market and sale proven products. We even find that engineers working at large corporate or educational organizations choose cloud manufacturing for department prototyping. The process is inexpensive and easy enough that even a casual hobbyist or Maker can see their ideas turn into reality.
Although cloud manufacturing might not be familiar to everyone yet, we’re sure it will be soon. It’s exactly the right approach to supporting the way that new products are being brought to market these days. Innovation is happening faster than ever before, and we’re excited to join startups and entrepreneurs as they push the boundaries of agile manufacturing and lean business practices.