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Manufacturing Strategies : How They Shape Products

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Silas Bamigbola

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Product manufacturing is a complex process involving the transformation of raw materials into finished products. This article explores various manufacturing strategies, including Make to Order (MTO), Make to Assemble (MTA), and the Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory system. It also examines how these strategies impact different industries and discusses the growing influence of sustainability and technology on manufacturing. Understanding these strategies is essential for businesses looking to excel in their respective industries and enhance global competitiveness.

Manufacturing production definition: Unveiling the strategies that shape our world

Product manufacturing is the cornerstone of the global economy, encompassing a multitude of strategies that define how products are made and delivered to consumers. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the diverse facets of manufacturing production, with a focus on the strategies employed to efficiently produce a wide array of goods. Whether you are a seasoned industry professional or simply curious about how the products you use daily come into existence, this article will provide valuable insights into the world of manufacturing.

Understanding product manufacturing

At its core, product manufacturing is the process of converting raw materials and components into finished products ready for distribution and consumption. This intricate journey involves several key stages, from initial product design to the acquisition of raw materials, actual production, quality control, and eventual distribution to consumers. The specific approach a company takes in manufacturing can significantly impact its efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and its ability to meet consumer demands. Let’s delve into some of the fundamental manufacturing strategies that shape the products we encounter every day.

Make to order (MTO): Customization at its core

Make to order (MTO), also known as “built to order,” is a manufacturing strategy that empowers customers to order products tailored to their precise specifications. This approach is particularly valuable when dealing with heavily customized products, where one size certainly does not fit all. Examples of MTO products include customized computers, automobiles with unique features, heavy equipment tailored for specific tasks, and various other big-ticket items.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • High degree of customization: MTO allows consumers to obtain products that meet their exact needs and preferences.
  • Reduced inventory costs: Companies employing MTO can minimize the expenses associated with storing excess inventory.
  • Longer lead times: A trade-off for customization is that customers may experience extended waiting times for their orders.
  • Higher production costs: MTO products often come with a higher price tag due to the level of customization involved.

Make to assemble (MTA): Balancing inventory and customization

The Make to Assemble (MTA) strategy serves as a hybrid approach, combining elements of both Make to Stock (MTS) and Make to Order (MTO) manufacturing. In the MTA approach, companies maintain stockpiles of basic components and parts based on predictions of demand. However, these components are not assembled into final products until customers place their orders.
An excellent example of the MTA approach can be found in the restaurant industry, which prepares a selection of raw materials in advance and assembles dishes only when a customer places an order. The advantage of MTA is the ability to swiftly customize products based on real-time customer demand. However, a significant downside to this strategy is the potential for companies to receive more orders than they can handle due to limitations in labor and available components.

Special considerations: The just-in-time (JIT) inventory system

While product manufacturing involves multiple facets, the Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory system focuses specifically on inventory management. This system is particularly effective in reducing waste and lowering inventory costs by ensuring that goods are received only when they are needed for production.
Companies that adopt the JIT inventory system do not maintain large inventories of parts and raw materials required for their products. Instead, deliveries of these items arrive at the production facility in smaller quantities, precisely when they are needed to complete production. To make the JIT strategy work effectively, efficient scheduling is crucial to ensure that production is never delayed due to material shortages.

Advantages of the JIT inventory system

  • Reduced inventory costs: JIT minimizes storage expenses.
  • Minimized waste: The system helps in reducing overproduction and excess inventory.
  • Improved production efficiency: JIT encourages a streamlined production process.

Challenges of the JIT inventory system

  • Dependency on suppliers: A breakdown in the supply chain can disrupt production.
  • Limited room for error: JIT leaves little margin for errors in inventory management.

How manufacturing strategies impact industries

In today’s dynamic business environment, manufacturing strategies play a crucial role in the success and sustainability of various industries. Let’s explore how these strategies are tailored to meet the unique demands of different sectors:

Automotive manufacturing

The automotive industry is a prime example of the importance of customized production strategies. Companies like Tesla have revolutionized the sector by offering highly customized electric vehicles (EVs) with options for battery size, performance, and features. In contrast, traditional manufacturers often produce standard models in bulk and rely on dealerships to manage inventory.

High-tech electronics

The world of high-tech electronics, such as smartphones and laptops, relies heavily on Make to Order (MTO) strategies. For instance, Apple allows customers to customize their MacBook or iPhone with various specifications. The result is a tailored product that meets the unique needs of the user, but it comes at a premium price.

Aerospace and defense

The aerospace and defense industry faces stringent quality and customization requirements. Companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin employ Make to Assemble (MTA) approaches, stocking critical components and assembling them according to specific customer requirements, whether it’s a commercial airliner or a military aircraft.

Sustainability in manufacturing

The shift towards sustainability has had a profound impact on manufacturing strategies. Let’s delve into how environmental concerns are reshaping the industry:

Green manufacturing

Manufacturers worldwide are adopting environmentally friendly practices. Sustainable materials, energy-efficient processes, and waste reduction are becoming standard in modern production. For instance, companies like Patagonia emphasize environmentally responsible practices in the creation of outdoor clothing.

Localized production

The localization of production, where products are made closer to the point of consumption, is gaining momentum. This approach minimizes transportation-related carbon emissions and reduces the need for extensive warehousing. For example, some companies are turning to 3D printing technology to create products on-demand, reducing the environmental footprint.

The role of technology

Technological advancements have transformed the manufacturing landscape. Here are a few ways technology is revolutionizing the industry:

Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing

The fourth industrial revolution, often referred to as Industry 4.0, is characterized by the integration of digital technology into all aspects of manufacturing. Smart factories utilize data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance efficiency and customization. For instance, in semiconductor manufacturing, wafer fabs employ advanced automation and data-driven quality control to create highly customized microchips.

Robotics and automation

Robotic automation has become an integral part of modern manufacturing. In industries like automotive manufacturing, robots are used for tasks ranging from welding and assembly to quality control. These machines offer precision and customization, contributing to the production of high-quality, customized vehicles.


The world of manufacturing is a dynamic and ever-evolving realm, driven by a myriad of factors that include customer demand, sustainability, and technological advancements. Understanding how strategies like Make to Order (MTO), Make to Assemble (MTA), and Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory systems fit into this landscape is essential for businesses aiming to excel in their respective industries. By embracing the right manufacturing strategy, companies can not only produce high-quality products but also enhance their competitiveness in the global market.

Frequently asked questions

What is the primary goal of product manufacturing?

Product manufacturing aims to transform raw materials and components into finished products ready for distribution and consumption. This process involves several key stages, including product design, material acquisition, production, quality control, and distribution.

What are the advantages of Make to Order (MTO) manufacturing?

MTO manufacturing allows customers to order products customized to their specifications. This approach offers a high degree of customization and reduces inventory costs. However, it may lead to longer lead times and higher production costs.

How does Make to Assemble (MTA) differ from other manufacturing strategies?

MTA combines elements of Make to Stock (MTS) and Make to Order (MTO) manufacturing. Companies stock basic components based on demand predictions but only assemble them when customers place orders. This strategy provides flexibility and improved responsiveness but can face capacity limitations and inventory shortages.

What is the significance of the Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory system in manufacturing?

The JIT inventory system focuses on efficient inventory management, reducing waste and lowering inventory costs. Companies using JIT do not store large inventories of parts and raw materials. Instead, materials are delivered in smaller quantities precisely when needed to maintain production efficiency.

How are manufacturing strategies tailored to specific industries?

Different industries, such as automotive manufacturing, high-tech electronics, and aerospace and defense, adopt manufacturing strategies that align with their unique demands. For example, automotive manufacturers focus on highly customized production, while high-tech electronics often rely on Make to Order (MTO) strategies. Aerospace and defense industries use Make to Assemble (MTA) approaches to meet stringent quality and customization requirements.

Key takeaways

  • Product manufacturing is the process of converting raw materials and components into finished products ready for distribution and consumption.
  • Make to Order (MTO) manufacturing allows customers to order customized products, but it may lead to longer lead times and higher production costs.
  • Make to Assemble (MTA) combines elements of Make to Stock (MTS) and Make to Order (MTO) manufacturing, offering flexibility and improved responsiveness.
  • The Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory system reduces waste and lowers inventory costs by ensuring goods are received only when needed for production.
  • Manufacturing strategies are tailored to specific industries, with examples in automotive, high-tech electronics, aerospace, and defense.
  • The shift towards sustainability is reshaping manufacturing with green practices and localized production.
  • Technology, including Industry 4.0 and robotics, plays a significant role in modern manufacturing, enhancing efficiency and customization.
  • Understanding the right manufacturing strategy is crucial for businesses to excel in their respective industries and enhance competitiveness in the global market.

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