Quick Guide to Distributed Manufacturing

Quick Guide to Distributed Manufacturing
Abel Acuna |   | 

The typical approach to manufacturing products is to collect raw materials, assemble and fabricate them in centralized factories. From there, the finished products are moved to the customer. Distributed manufacturing turns this on its head by decentralizing the materials and methods of fabrication. The object is to create the products very close to the customer by replacing as much of the material supply chain as possible with digital information.

How is this possible? The distributed manufacturing approach leverages online, self-service technology platforms for storing design specifications and managing projects. This combined with advanced prototyping and manufacturing services, reduces the complexity and delays that were hallmarks of traditional manufacturing. Another advantage of distributed manufacturing is that low volume orders no longer need to be subject to the same processes as those used for large quantity orders. With distributed manufacturing prototypes, iterations, and small production runs can be accomplished quickly and for a reasonable price.

The Benefits of Distributed Manufacturing

Lower Costs

Distributed manufacturing reduces costs in a number of ways, but perhaps most importantly, it makes it possible for small quantity production runs to be delivered for a reasonable price. It also eliminates unnecessary shipping and storage expenses.

Diminished Risk

Every time a part or product is moved, particularly overseas, there is an element of risk involved. Choosing one provider that handles the entire product lifecycle from prototype to shipping reduces the chance of shipping errors or delays.

Quick Turn Around Times

Distributed manufacturing speeds every part of the process from getting your quote to putting the finished product into the hands of your customer. You get a quote in seconds so there is no delay in pulling the trigger on your project. Prototyping and iteration is seamless, making it possible to perfect your product quickly.

Specialization

Modern distributed manufacturing partners make it possible for you to focus on developing your products and running your business while they take care of the details involved in bringing your inventions to market. You don’t have to get good at parts sourcing, PCB assembly, inventory, or shipping because they already are.

Key Capabilities of Distributed Manufacturing

Distributed manufacturing can take many forms, but when it comes to electronic device and PCB assembly, there are some distinct advantages that the best manufacturing partners are able to offer. Results may vary, so it is important to find a partner that offers all of the capabilities that are important to your business or project. Here are a few to look for.

Online Quotes

Distributed manufacturing is all about the instant flow of information, so it stands to reason that you should be able to get instant quotes online. With the right service partner, you simply upload your design documents, choose your parts and get your quote immediately.

Painless Prototyping

The traditional manufacturing process was not designed to make prototyping simple and hassle free. Fortunately, new technology has made it possible for PCB and electronic device manufactures to offer fast, easy prototyping at a low cost. You

Built-in Sourcing

One way to keep costs low and accelerate the product lifecycle is to choose a manufacturing partner that offers turn-key parts sourcing. This approach lets you focus on your product or PCB while the partner identifies the best sources and negotiates the right price.

Cloud-based Reporting and Project Management

The best distributed manufacturing platforms give you visibility into the status of your order at any time, from anywhere. You should be able to manage your project, make changes and report on the current status of any open items.

Parts Discounts

It is a good idea to look for a distributed manufacturing partner that offers discounts on popular parts. These programs are often called “house parts discounts.” The hardware manufacturing partner negotiates volume discounts on the parts that are most frequently ordered across their entire customer base. You save even if your volume is low.

Inventory Management

One of the hallmarks of distributed manufacturing is just-in-time production. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for inventory entirely. Fortunately, some modern hardware manufacturing service providers also offer inventory storage and management services. This approach embraces the Lean manufacturing ideal of eliminating the waste associated with unnecessary movement of goods.

Fulfillment Services

While you are evaluating potential distributed manufacturing partners, it makes sense to consider the last step in the product lifecycle, fulfillment. Turn-key assembly and manufacturing partners will ship your products directly to customers. You get to take a hands-off approach and manage your business while your service provider boxes and ships items on demand. In some cases, you even get discounts on shipping based on your partner’s volume.

On-Shore Services

The goal of distributed manufacturing is to manufacture products as near as possible to the people who will use them. Offshore manufacturing runs contrary to this ideal, but for a long time, it was the only way to get things made for a reasonable price. That is no longer the case. There are now PCB and electronic products manufactures in the US that can offer quick, reliable, and reasonably priced services. This speeds time to market and reduces risk.

There is every reason to believe that 2017 will be the tipping point for distributed manufacturing. That’s great news for small businesses and other inventors who are ready to introduce new concepts in electronics and their customers as well.