Why Distributed Manufacturing?

Conventional manufacturing models are struggling to keep up with the demands of modern consumers. The 21st century customer wants originality and uniqueness at a competitive price while keeping up with the latest trends. However, trends now do not last years but months and sometimes only weeks with fashion, whilst industry takes much longer than this to bring a new product to market. Customer demand has changed; manufacturers must adapt to keep up.

HSSMI has been researching the state of the art in Distributed Manufacturing (DM) and analysing selected case studies. Academic research suggests that DM can satisfy the 21st century consumer’s needs, putting manufacturers in control to meet a low-cost, mass-customised, fast-changing demand. However, HSSMI aims to further understand what DM means for SMEs and OEMs and the potential challenges. What are the benefits of adoption of DM and how can the wider UK network of manufacturers take advantage of them?

 

How to distribute manufacturing?

Our research shows that there is no secret recipe to follow to successfully distribute manufacturing but digitalisation is its enabler. The World Economic Forum suggests replacing as much of the supply chain as possible with digital information, using digital instructions and digitally enabled machines to manufacture products at a local scale.

Most people think DM is just a local community-empowered operational model making use of digital technologies. Well-known examples are Open Desk, Fablab and Wikihouse. This model proposes a cloud-based catalogue to order from. After ordering, in an open workshop, the product or its parts are made using CNC routers and 3D printers, and simple assembly operations carried out. The product can be fabricated and assembled by the customer or a professional from a local network.

This model, whilst well-suited for a redesign economy, represents a narrow definition of the concept. DM also means redistribution, decentralisation and connectivity and the benefits it brings can be achieved in many ways. The approach will depend on the needs of your business and the nature of what is being distributed.

In practical terms, a community-empowered model will likely struggle in its implementation in established manufacturing businesses. However, as distribution is possible in many setups and scales, companies can digitally distribute manufacturing instructions while relying on a centralised supply chain. You can even develop a semi-professional local network of makers while retaining process and design ownership as well as customer relationships. Assuring quality control, building brand hype and learning from customer feedback.

So, is distribution right for your manufacturing setup and scale?

As you can see, Distributed Manufacturing can work under many setups and scales and HSSMI can tailor the support it provides to meet your company needs and ambitions.

The UK is just scratching the surface of what can be achieved with Distributed Manufacturing. Although still a puzzling concept, it allows for different interpretations allowing your business to distribute in their own way regardless of setup and scale. The companies getting ahead early on with distribution will be able to reap the benefits this concept offers and gain a competitive advantage.

HSSMI is at the forefront in industrial research and its application on the shop floor. We can help you and your business to take on the distribution journey on your own terms.

 

This blog is for internaland external use. If you enjoyed this blog post and/or wanted to discuss the matter further, please contact the author, Alberto Fernandez Minguela at alberto.minguela@hssmi.org