The uberification of manufacturing

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Whether you’re looking for something to eat for dinner, a ride to the airport, or an accommodation for your holidays, probably there’s an app in your mobile phone that fits your case. That’s the basis of the on-demand economy: satisfying an instantaneous need through a specific solution  delivered in mobility or at your place.

The on-demand concept is not new but it is in the last few years that the on-demand economy is burgeoning, with $57.6 billion in spending just in the US, taking advantage of finally reliable business models and the possibilities provided by the new technologies. It is one of the most influential market trends and it is redefining a plethora of products and services. And in some cases even the basis of the market axioms.

It is called manufacturing-on-demand (MoD), and it represents the application of the on-demand approach to the manufacturing process, allowing to turn a design into a product without facing production plants, capital investments, warehouses, minimum orders and many of the others typical barriers related to products manufacturing.

In the traditional manufacturing model an entrepreneur has two major ways to manufacture a product: own the facilities in which the product will be produced, or externalize the manufacturing process to a third party. In the first case the entrepreneur has to face high investments costs, while in the other scenario higher operational costs and operational inconveniences (negotiation of quotations, minimum orders, technical and logistic limitations etc) are expected.

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MoD is based on highly flexible manufacturing techniques, such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) or 3D printing, and cloud-based platform. The cloud-based platform works as a computer-aided design (CAD) applications and it is usually compatible with the major CAD applications already existing. Through the cloud-based platform a designer can create, or simply upload, the design of its product. Once the design of the product is defined on the cloud-platform, it is only needed to set the amount of units to be produced and the address for the delivery to instantly obtain the quotation of the order and proceed with its finalization.

MoD is not free of limitations. 3D printing for example has great potential but is still restricted to a dozen of materials and at the same time the traditional manufacturing processes are still quicker and cheaper in case of massive productions. Nevertheless MoD opens unprecedented scenarios allowing designers and entrepreneurs to bring on the market productions that before were just not feasible due to small volumes and high manufacturing costs, or technical limitations.

Different MoD services are already available on the market, in some cases provided by large firms joint ventures, confirming the high potential of a model that might represent one of the major changes in the future global market.

 

Further Readings:

3D Printing vs CNC: Explained

Dr.Gianluca Belotti
PMO Officer
PhD in Chemical Engineer

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