Agile manufacturing: what it is and how it works
If you’ve been around the business world for long enough, you’ve heard plenty about something called agile methodology. Here’s how it applies to manufacturing.
Distributed manufacturing promotes efficiency, flexibility, and reduces costs. Learn all about it and how to implement it.
If you’ve tried to buy a car in North America over the past year, you have probably had a run-in with today’s supply chain challenges.
Some parts produced far away are no longer available due to pandemic-related shutdowns, while others are in short supply due to a global semiconductor shortage. This is the new trend towards a just-in-time, globalized economy — the entire world is linked together in a complex web of trade and production. The current system was not designed to deal with sudden disruptions on such a large scale.
But what if there was a way to build resilience into the system by using decentralized manufacturing?
This is the promise of the distributed manufacturing trend.
It also opens up the possibility of decentralized supply chains, which would be much less vulnerable to disruptions.
Before we proclaim this system as one that will save the world, let’s dig a little deeper into what it is distributed manufacturing advantages and disadvantages and how to manage it using advancing software solutions.
Distributed manufacturing is a way of organizing production so that it is spread out across many different locations. This could mean making things closer to where they are needed or using local resources that might otherwise go to waste.
Right now, the vast majority of manufacturing industries takes place in centralized locations, often in countries with low production cost. This has led to a situation where many products are shipped long distances worldwide before they reach consumers.
Distributed production changes this by moving production closer to where it will be used. This could involve setting up small-scale production facilities in different parts of the world or even leveraging a digital platform or 3D printing technology to make products on demand locally.
There are many different ways to organize distributed manufacturing:
This would make it easier to produce and distribute products locally, as the different parts could be shipped from different places:
This is one of the driving forces behind a switch to distributed manufacturing, as our world continues to struggle with ecological changes due to our current take-make-waste economy — harvesting materials, making products, and throwing them out.
The common thread is that production is spread out across many different local markets and locations, making significant changes to supply chain management.
With our current unsustainable model, there are constant threats of disruption from things like:
Results indicate that a distributed manufacturing model would be much more resilient to these disruptions, as it would not rely on any one location. This is one of the main benefits of distributed manufacturing. But others include:
Since it is not universally adopted, you can guess that there are also some disadvantages to the process.
Importantly, some of the advantages above don’t provide a direct improvement over traditional manufacturing. In the centralized manufacturing vs. distribution conversation, it’s important to consider a few things. One is that, in some cases, the disadvantages of distributed manufacturing can cancel out the advantages.
Here are some examples of distributed manufacturing challenges:
Given these challenges, why would anyone want to move to a distributed manufacturing system?
The key here is how managing distributed manufacturing platforms have become easier and easier as technology has advanced. Imagine trying to run 15 different manufacturing facilities spread all over the world in 1950.
It would be absolute chaos.
But today, there are cloud manufacturing software solutions that can help you manage every aspect of your distributed manufacturing operation from one central location.
These software solutions can help you with things like:
With the right software in place, you can use distributed manufacturing to your advantage rather than seeing it as a necessary evil.
You can use it to become more flexible and responsive to changes in the market, reduce your carbon footprint, and tap into local resources that you might otherwise not have access to.
In short, distributed manufacturing is the way of the future. It promises to make our supply chains more resilient, our production model more efficient, and our products better quality.
With the right software in place, like the end-to-end manufacturing ERP software from Katana that provide a class-leading user experience, it can be a powerful tool for any manufacturer.
Managing a network of manufacturers across the globe leads many businesses to turn to ERP software to help them handle this monumental task.
By doing so, they can use the essential features to get more control over their:
Create Outsourced purchase orders (OPO) or make stock transfers from your warehouses to ensure your outsource manufacturers have everything they need to make your products.
Suppose you’re using contract manufacturing in your workflow to make a finished product. In that case, you can send partially finished goods to your sub-contractor to perform an operation and track the progress and costs of their service.
Easily track and manage inventory at multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers, consignment inventory with retailers or resellers, and monitor production in your own factories or with outsourced manufacturing partners.
Integrations with popular e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce allows manufacturers to track their inventory and sales separately across different channel, all from one place.
Katana ERP offers all this and more. Are you already juggling inventory between multiple locations and contractors? Try Katana’s 14-day free trial and see firsthand how the software can help take your business to the next level.
And until next time, happy inventory tracking.