Low volume manufacturing strategies center on creating small batches of products cost-effectively. They require rethinking the traditional focus on rapid production for the mass market and targeting processes that maintain efficiency and quality for every product. Low volume manufacturing strategies aren’t for everyone, but in some industries—like medical device creation—they are indispensable.
Of course, not all low volume manufacturing processes are the same. They need cultivation based on what’s best for the creator’s product and their target market. That’s why anyone considering a low volume approach should look at some of the more popular options to choose the best path to market.
Three Low Volume Manufacturing Strategies to Consider
Choosing a low volume manufacturing strategy centers on the expense in the creation of the product, the development timeline, and its overall complexity. After reviewing those criteria carefully, the creator should look at some of the most common strategies used in production to define their own individual processes.
#1: High Mix, Low Volume Manufacturing (HMLV)
High Mix, Low Volume manufacturing may appear to be a chaotic process, as typically, many different products are created together in small batches. This strategy will require many process changes and a diverse set of materials and tools. As such, it’s not an option that’s well suited to an assembly line environment as it requires creativity and adaptivity.
HMLV is typically the right choice when there are a lot of components in a single product, or in cases with product creation aggregation—like with contract manufacturing. It’s a favorite in outsourcing as it allows the company to maintain multiple income streams rather than relying on a single product.
#2: Adaptive Lean Low Volume Manufacturing
Lean principles don’t seem designed for low volume manufacturing, at first glance, but there are some useful aspects which are applicable. One such element is about waste reduction. Even in low volume, it’s good to create a process that will allow the building of a single product in as few steps as possible. By continually striving to improve methods, creators can better scale the operation and make the production stage more cost-effective.
Using an adaptative lean model in manufacturing isn’t ideal for every circumstance. This method is typically best used when creating a series of identical products or ones that aren’t particularly complex, as the process will allow for little deviation. Lean is probably one of the best solutions for creators who are particularly concerned about controlling costs. The standardization will enable them to see exactly where the most significant percentage of their funding goes and then scale back as needed.
#3: Just-in-Time Manufacturing (JIT)
JIT can work in low and high-volume environments. It’s really about serving demand. Instead of creating products in anticipation of sales, manufacturing occurs after the order. This option allows manufacturers to keep inventory low and save storage space while controlling costs.
JIT is best in areas where the creation of products is very time-consuming or expensive. It’s especially useful when the material to develop products is scarce or costly. That’s why it’s a popular model in the automotive industry. It’s also a production method that pairs well with the creation of custom items.
Combining Manufacturing Strategies for an Improved Process
Creators don’t have to settle on a single process when choosing their low volume manufacturing strategies. They can pick and choose elements from all the base models and create a solution that’s perfect for their unique product. Even things that don’t seem like they could work together—like HMLV and Adaptive Lean—can work when the creator partners with an experienced manufacturer.
Low volume manufacturing strategies work best when the creator keeps the majority of their product development process in the same place. Using a partner who can design products, build prototypes, and create tooling will help to control costs and ensure a simplified manufacturing run. Individuals who specialize in low volume manufacturing will be familiar enough with all the available strategies to ensure success regardless of whether they’re developing ten, twenty, or a thousand products.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.