In the earliest days of production, low volume manufacturing was the order of the day. Then, skilled artisan crafted Items one by one. But as time went by, the demand grew, and consumers wanted affordable products. Factories had no choice than to invest in mass production. Customers’ expectations went high. They demanded more diversified and customized products.
The lifespan of products shrieked and the production cycle shortened because of rapid innovation. These and other factors like flexible designing, time-to-time markets pose challenges to product developers. Hence, developers are turning from mass production, and are embracing low volume production.
The move sounds counter-productive considering product designing is growing. Technologies like 3D printing and CNC machining have become popular. They are fast, and companies can get products to the market in weeks. But still, product developers are shifting towards low volume manufacturing.
What is Low Volume Manufacturing?
Known as a part of pre-production, low volume manufacturing is a manufacturing technique used for producing small quantities faster. The process involves manufacturing at a rate of 50 to 100,000 parts. Production depends on factors like the manufacturing processes, mold tooling, and material used. Besides, low volume manufacturing is a bridge between prototyping and small volume production.
Regardless of the size, the low volume is a viable method for companies looking to leverage. The technique provides both start-ups and large manufacturers solutions to act efficiently.
Advantages of Low Volume Manufacturing
1. It offers an Option to Bridge Production.
Low volume manufacturing provides avenues to scale up production. For instance, it bridges production by improving a prototype until it becomes better or perfect. Therefore, if the outcomes of the last product are impressive, it may lead to increased orders, and demand becomes steady for years.
Low volumes reduce market time. It also saves the stress of investing in individual machines for handling enormous quantities. Besides, small volume production can turn to high volume production. Thus, generating more revenue as long as the product reaches the market fast.
2. The Process Reduces Time to Market
Technology is changing, which means there is a constant demand to keep innovating. This leaves product developers with a cumbersome task of designing and redesigning. If not, their product loses market relevance.
But low volume manufacturing eases the pressure for developers. It reduces the inventory burden by only producing what is sellable and sustainable. The process increases the success rate and optimizes the supply chains. On the other part, it shortens lead times, which means products reach the market within days or weeks.
3. The Process Reduces Cost which Saves Money
The popular belief is that, if you produce more, you save money, and that is not true. That theory only works when purchasing household items and not in manufacturing. Too, the cost per unit of an item is dependent on the material used.
Another way firms save money is when investing in tools. For example, if mass production needs hardened tool steel to fix the machines. It may prove expensive since it costs a lot to order a bunch of repair tools. Whereas in low volume, you only replace the worn part which costs less, and in return lowers the overheads.
Additionally, companies with mass volume production work with the least order. The reason being, in every production, they have to offset investment and set up costs. But, low volume manufacturers have lower overheads, hence no minimum order. Thus, a company producing in a small scale avoids an outdated inventory. In case the design or market demand changes.
4. Provides time for Design Improvement
Low volume production provides an excellent option for flexible design improvement. For example, some design aspects may no longer appeal to customers. It’s easy to modify without a significant impact on the whole order. Yet, in mass production, design alteration affects the total order.
Impact of CNC Machining on Low Volume Manufacturing
CNC machining is arguably the best manufacturing technology in the world. It has played a vital role in the success of low volume manufacturing. Plus, the two give the right solutions and assessments for scheduled mass production.
CNC machining offers a whole range of advantages to low-volume. They include high precision machined parts, more extensive material selection. Also, it offers accuracy and repeatability to the process. So, it’s right to conclude, CNC machining gives low volume the edge in producing custom made aluminum and CNC prototypes with ease.
Effects of Injection Molding on Low Volume Manufacturing
Rapid tooling is the perfect choice for clients who need low volume molded parts. Furthermore, injection molding can produce thousands of copies. It also allows a repetitive production of a single design.
Though rapid moldings are for mass production, they are still suitable for low volume manufacturing. Too, they produce small rapid tooling parts for testing and verification, before final production.
Where Low Volume Manufacturing Is Applied
More factories are applying this model of production in their systems. The main reason being, it’s affordable and offers more advantages than mass production. Here are some of the areas where its application is widely preferred.
- Where production and functional prototypes have to match the final product
- Used as a rapid bridging prototype to bridge mass production
- Used when producing short run-parts
- When producing high quality customized parts
- In industries dealing with custom low volume CNC machining
- Sectors dealing with low volume metal sheet fabrication
- In plastic injection molding pilot run
- Pre-production of testing and verification of components (EVT, DVT, PVT)
The impact of Low volume manufacturing continues to grow in the coming future. Its popularity increases and the product life cycle diminishes, while the demand still rises.
Besides, the practice of low volume production is cost-effective in the long run. For instance, it reduces the risk, reduces time to market, offers design flexibility, and provides an opportunity to cut costs.
Technology and innovation are rapidly growing, which means cost-effective manufacturing continues to develop. Hence, more benefits to users. Meaning consumers get to enjoy more customized and diversified parts. Plus, companies become more capable of producing more and faster.