Imagine the ability to manufacture a product without owning and operating the machinery. Many companies are reluctant to operate this way; there is a misconception that without owning the equipment and overseeing the manufacturing process that control is lost.
In reality, it’s the opposite. The control of quality lies in the final assembly. But for the sake of discussion, let’s take a look at Vertical Manufacturing.
What is the alternative to Virtual Manufacturing?
Vertical integration of the manufacturing process is the alternative to and opposite of Virtual Manufacturing.
In this case a company physically controls the entire process from start to finish. The production is all housed in facilities that the company owns and controls. This is the original manufacturing model from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. Transportation and communication limitations of that era made it essential. Today is a different story.
These days, no production is totally vertical. Metal window companies in the most vertical model do not take the ore out of the ground, smelt it, and produce the bars or sheets. Also, no one sets up to manufacture their own screws and bolts.
Virtual manufacturing reduces the investment significantly. There is overhead associated with the subcontractor, but no need to front millions of dollars to purchase the machinery. So, why do so many companies continue to practice Vertical production? The most likely answers are
- There is perceived control over the entire process and
- “That’s the way we have always done it”.
In other words, a non-innovative mindset.
Why Choose Vertical Manufacturing?
Proponents of Vertical Manufacturing value control, which is most often followed by cost reduction.
If you own it, you don’t have to pay the overhead and profit of someone else to whom you would subcontract the work. The downside to this is it requires a lot of capital and commits you to “today” processes. For instance, if you own a million-dollar machine used to make your product in a certain way, you are not likely to be an innovator moving to new technology. You are not likely to make the process better, faster and cheaper. Why? Because you need to justify your earlier investment.
In addition to investment there is the issue of market fluctuations. As we accelerate, market evolution essentials for three or four decades disappear in a matter of moments. Think about vacuum tube TV’s, slide rulers (that is how I learned engineering), and gasoline engines. Oh, wait a moment, that last one hasn’t disappeared, YET.
What are the Benefits of Virtual Manufacturing?
Virtual Manufacturing favors speed, flexibility, and instant adoption of innovation.
The term used to describe virtual companies is guerilla operations. As in war, this business model nips away at large armies using ingenuity and agility to offset overwhelming human and physical firepower. Little capitalization is required because subcontractors (subs) are commissioned to produce all the major components. The subs own the machines, manage the workers, and are experts in the technology.
Virtual Manufacturing provides companies with the flexibility of having multiple subcontractors to build each component. This creates redundancy and security. Additionally, sales volume spikes and draughts are not financial burdens to the Guerilla Operations.
How Can You Become an Innovator or Disruptor?
Guerilla Operations (virtual manufacturers) can change on a dime to the latest manufacturing techniques allowing them to become innovators and disruptors in their fields . Rather than being heavily invested in yesterday’s technology, they can make immediate changes when market demands go up or down. Vertical Manufacturers, on the other hand, are more like dinosaurs; if demand changes and the market takes a big hit, they are at risk of becoming extinct.
How Do You Guarantee a Precise Product? Great Software
2Fold® Doors is a virtual manufacturer of steel+glass+Accoya® windows and doors. We do own the final assembly operation so that we can control the quality and carefully inspect all of subcontractors’ work.
As a Guerilla Operation, we can take advantage of laser cutters, CNC bending, robotic welding, and state of the art finishing technology without having to make the investment of time or money. For us, software makes it happen.
We developed software that we use to custom engineer all of our projects. Every time someone orders a custom window or door we need only to input variables like size, color, function, hinge type, and lock type into the DriveWorks automation tool. DriveWorks then tells SolidWorks (a 3D modeling software like Autocad) to build exact 3D models of each product down to the smallest screw. In other words, our vendor or client receives a 3D model and a virtual representation of the product.
These final models are delivered in universal formats, created by our software, that all CNC-based machines understand. The result is an output with precision to the thousandth of an inch.
We get to spend time with our customers to fully understand their needs, instead of toiling over a busy factory floor. Our dedication to the front end of the process, automation of the engineering process, and virtual manufacturing make for a better experience for the architect, contractor, and homeowner that uses 2Fold® Doors.