The web is seeing an appealing new trend for do-it-yourselfers who are making their own goods and selling them to a broad market. It’s a cottage industry known as “micro-manufacturing.”

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With the assistance of computers, 3D printers, and design software, designers and inventors are having a field day creating one-offs and putting them up for sale in the shortest sales cycle ever seen.

How do they differ from large manufacturers?

This new breed of savvy micro-manufacturers specialize in custom products, small quantities, and quick turnaround. They cannot and do not attempt to compete with high-volume low-cost manufacturers.

Micro-manufacturers are full aware that some jobs are too large and some price points too low. Instead, they focus on “high touch” opportunities that are too small and specialized for large factories.

The KISS principle

Mark Dwight at Inc.com notes how this new breed of entrepreneurs follows the KISS principle, albeit with a new twist. Instead of “keep it simple, stupid,” micro-manufacturers don’t view their fellow compatriots as stupid at all.

Instead, they look at KISS as “keeping it super simple.” This slogan underscores that these entrepreneurs do not maintain a finished-goods inventory and why they keep their supply chain as short as possible. They also focus on direct sales as opposed to wholesale to improve profit margins at higher price points.

Developing a brand

Dwight also points out that “perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the U.S. micro-manufacturing rebirth is that entrepreneurial companies no longer have to operate as mere subcontractors in the shadow of master brands.” This allows the little guy to develop his or her own brand name and placing that name on everything the little operation creates.

The next industrial revolution

BBC reporter Matthew Wall sees micro-manufacturing as the next industrial revolution, in which the products are not just your traditional arts-and-crafts items but “high-tech gadgets and inventions that have gone on to sell millions — and make millions — around the world.” He uses Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey as an example.

“Dorsey is the man behind another highly successful company, Square, which makes mini payment card readers that can plug into your smartphone or tablet,” says Wall. In seven short years that company has announced its intention to raise $60 million from corporate and private investors to fund its expansion.

Shipping for micro-manufacturers

Since DIYers still have to contend with some of the business practices of larger brands, shipping remains an important cost factor. Xeneta is an excellent resource for enabling micro-manufacturers to shop smarter and save money when it comes to shipping.

With them, you’ll be able to track your shipping pricing against a growing database with thousands of shipping routes worldwide.

Micro-businesses are wide-ranging. Consumer products as well as the defense, automotive and medical industries are requiring diminutive devices and components with micro-scaled features. With applications in nearly every manufacturing vertical, understanding how micro-manufacturing is more advantageous than many forms of traditional manufacturing is key to seeing how it will improve manufacturing processes in the future.

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