With the havoc in retailing, do you think the time for On-Demand Manufacturing has come?
Maybe even for your company or your own ideas?
Over the last few years, there has been a shift in the way new products are brought to market. It seems more and more sales are moving on-line, leaving retailers holding dramatic amounts of unsold inventory. Nowhere is that more prevalent than fast-fashion. Maybe fast fashion has run its course?
What if shoes, clothes, and everything else could be made when we needed them?
There’s been a lot of talk for years about on-demand manufacturing, about instapreneurs, who have nothing more than a design, and they can manufacture jewelry, T-shirts, furniture and just about anything. They have no factories or warehouses, no upfront costs or minimum order quantities. Perhaps the next revolution in making is upon us?
What’s interesting is previously it was small businesses and individual creatives that were most interested in On-Demand manufacturing. They could literally manufacture and sell anything in only a few minutes. We’ve all seen the Esty and Shopify success stories. This type of virtual designing, where a third-party ships directly to the customer is sometimes called ‘Cloud-Manufacturing.” All the intimidating engineering, complex manufacturing headaches, code writing, time consuming back and forth and wallet eating activities are streamlined in a platform that makes it easier, a lot more fun, and far less expensive to make things.
Today, many more large brands are starting to see on-demand manufacturing as a way of selling direct to consumers and reclaiming margins, but also to have closer contact with the end consumer and what that customer actually wants – what we want. Until recently, product developers have looked only at building products in a manufacturing system that was developed to support the needs of volume driven businesses. Now, companies are seeing an unexpected benefit of On-Demand Manufacturing, reshoring their products and focusing on ‘Total Cost” of ownership (TCO) and improve on the previous Just in Time supply chain model (JIT), by not being tied in to production forecasts. They are finding that they may not need one huge factory making everything, but several smaller, more focused and compact micro-manufacturing facilities that are more streamlined and closer to the customers they serve. Sometimes they are looking to leverage other platforms like Amazon’s massive distribution and marketing platforms and they are relocating closer to large shipping hubs.
What is On-Demand Manufacturing?
The phrase "manufacturing on demand" (MOD) or On-Demand-Manufacturing is a process wherein goods are produced when or as they are required. In traditional manufacturing, an assembly line works on standard shifts to produce large quantities of products, which are then kept in inventory, typically in huge warehouses, until they are purchased.
With On-Demand Manufacturing, the system is broken down to make “eaches” or individual units rather than massive quantities. On-Demand Manufacturing is scalable and adjustable in production and assembly processes, where work is focused on putting together customized bundles based on real-time or current data from a client. The platform technology creates the ability to group many small orders together, keeping costs down for everyone and eliminating the need for minimum order quantities.
In many ways, manufacturing on demand has been made possible through advances in technology such as 3-D additive manufacturing, automation, software advances.
What does this mean to our industry?
In our industry, apparel, specifically our knitting industry there are a couple of stand-out companies utilizing knit-on-demand. One is Ministry of Supply.
It is truly, “A whole new way of thinking about manufacturing,” building beautiful garments with a very agile supply chain. Knitting to shape reduces waste to a bare minimum.
Another is Variant. (Disclaimer: Variant is a client of Fabdesigns, Inc.) Variant has created a platform that allows individuals, brands, creatives, and anyone who wants to express their own creativity in fabric format to customize their own products on line. They can choose bodies, colors, jacquards, sizing of jacaquards, layouts of backs fronts and sleeves, and even upload their own designs into the existing bodies and manipulate until they are happy. Instapreneurs can link up to their websites, Shopify or ecommerce sites, and sell one, dozens or thousands.
Brands can use the existing bodies with their own style guides or build their own templates, which are pre-engineered, and size graded to work with the customizing platform. That’s the front end, but the back end is equally impressive, with an automated knitting system where no one must write programs, input graphics, or do any of the things a typical knitting factory must do to knit down a product. Production is streamlined and everything the customer inputs on the computer or mobile to be there design, knits out the back end seamlessly and is assemble with not cutting and dearly zero waste. Variant currently has men’s and women’s garments in their cloud manufacturing library, but has shoes, bags, and many other products planned in the next couple of months, as well as brand and local manufacturing partnerships in the works around the world.
Why On-Demand Could Be the Future of Manufacturing
We live in an increasingly on-demand world. Retail is in a flux. Everyone would like to blame on-line sales. Some of that is true. But it is also true that huge factories are making merchandise for multiple retail channels and everything looks the same no matter what store, because of that fact. it is also true because retailers have traditionally dictated what they 'envisioned' their stores to look like seasonally, including colors, textures and direction. If everyone is using the same expensive trend services, and buying office locations, wouldn't it be expected that everything looks the same for that reason too? People want things fast, but they also want them the way they want them. They don’t want to look like everyone else. They want their own little piece of specialness built into the products they use, wear and drive. Retailers like Nordstrom are toying with the idea of "stores without merchandise," creating stores that are 3000 square feet rather than 140,000, and putting in wine, beer, and expresso, but no merchandise to purchase. Customers might be able to try things on, but merchandise is shipped for pick up with tailors available at the location for alterations or the merchandise is shipped to a location of the customer's choosing (home or work). Things are getting smaller and more focused. and warehouse space is a lot less expensive than retail space. The modern retail experience is definitely changing in different ways.
Given that people are looking for these changes, as well as so many creative people and companies are looking to serve customers, while at the same time wanting to have the next big thing, perhaps it’s worth thinking about how On-Demand Manufacturing may already be a revolution the manufacturing sector needs in so many ways.
Why is On-Demand Manufacturing Advantageous?
· Product Inventory Management
· No Minimum Order Requirements
· Order Fulfillment and Shipping
· Improving Cash Flow
· Flexibility in Design
Are you ready for better manufacturing?
Connie Huffa – Fabdesigns, Inc.
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