The Era of Micromanufacturing
During the Industrial Age, large manufacturing was seen as the most efficient way to mass produce products so that cost would come down and more people would be able to purchase those items. As time moved on, we moved from the Industrial Age into the Age of Information and large manufacturing plants move to countries like China and others that built these massive manufacturing plants that were so big they required electric cars to drive around the plant. We are now moving into the era of micromanufacturing.
What Is Micromanufacturing?
Because this is a relatively new term there is lots of confusion around its meaning. Very often, someone who encounters this word thinks of manufacturing very tiny items. But this new era of micromanufacturing is all about tiny manufacturing plants producing small amounts of products. At first glance, many people might have a difficult time understanding why that would be advantageous.
In the past, it was always believed that the larger a manufacturing facility was and the greater its capacity to produce large amounts of product was ideal. The reason for this is that the more they could produce the lower they could make the price, and this meant that a much larger demographic of people could afford to buy the item. So the idea of making a tiny factory that can operate from a single room seems to go against the long proven method of mass production.
One of the problems with the gigantic manufacturing facilities that you find in places like China is that there is a great deal of wasted space. These facilities take a tremendous amount of financial investment to build and operate, and yet these facilities use only a portion of the total space they have available.
It is still difficult for the average person to imagine how a tiny factory could compete with these giant ones. To begin to have an understanding all we need to do is to imagine what computers were originally like. In the fifties, sixties, and seventies huge rooms would be required to house a computer capable of doing less than what a cell phone today can do. With the improvements in technology we now have computers that are of various sizes that can far outperform the computers of the past that took up huge rooms for a single computer.
In the same way, the era of micromanufacturing is making way for the ability to have tiny factories that produce small amounts of special-ordered goods. There are a number of devices that are being manufactured today that are needed but only purchased in small quantities. Under the current style of manufacturing, this is not practical. But with the era of micromanufacturing, it is not only possible but profitable.
Examples of Micromanufacturing
Laser Printers for the home or office is an item that is among those well suited for tiny factories. This product is not very complex and while it is not designed to print huge amounts of documents, they work perfectly good for homes and small offices where they’re used to print small amounts of documentation on demand. This type of item is not especially complex in its design and yet those who use it find that it is more than adequate for their particular use. This type of technology is specifically designed so that the user can print on demand without having to schedule or wait for their item to be printed out.
In the past, many items that were needed for a particular piece of technology would require developing a relationship with a manufacturer and because of the cost of producing those items, it would be necessary to set a minimum order quantity or MOQ in order to make it practical for the manufacturer to produce those items. With the era of micromanufacturing, it will become possible to make these items in much smaller quantity and possibly even eliminate MOQ.
Another advantage of this type of manufacturing is that these tiny factories can begin to make what is known as ‘just-in-time production’. So rather than having to place an order and then wait for that order to be manufactured and delivered, the tiny factories will have a greater capacity to make the needed parts or products on demand. This will allow companies ordering items from the tiny factory to work better within their particular budget and order items as needed on a much smaller scale.
Some other advantages of this type of manufacturing include the ability to make electronic parts and other items on demand and reduce the complexity of the machines and their parts as well as reducing labor cost which makes this all possible.
The Return Of Manufacturing Facilities To The US
In the past, when manufacturing was seen as having the need to become increasingly mammoth in size it drove up cost and it led to the necessity of those gigantic facilities moving overseas where labor and other costs were substantially cheaper. But as we move into the era of micromanufacturing, it opens the possibility of these tiny factories opening within the US. As the giant manufacturing facilities moved overseas it meant that their jobs left the US and some of those jobs became completely extinct but with the emergence of this new style of factory being tiny it opens the possibility for it to again be practical to run within the US border and have direct relationships with the businesses that these tiny factories are making products for.
We are now seeing even President Trump talking about having more products ‘Made in the US’. He and others are reiterating the ‘Made in America’ slogan and with this new style of manufacturing it is becoming more likely to happen. This trend is not only something that is taking place in America but also in the UK and even Russia. The types of tiny factories that are possible include many products such as iPhones as well as the component parts for units of various technology and others.