One of the factors that determine the success of any business is the efficiency of its supply chain. For businesses that rely on manufacturing, speed is one of the key characteristics of an efficient supply chain. With many modern manufacturing options to choose from, why should a business prioritize speed? This guide will tell you why.
Ability to meet changing demand levels
Most businesses face the challenge of operating with erratic demand cycles. When a business is unable to meet sudden demand spikes, it loses revenue. With technologies like 3D printing, new orders can be fulfilled at short notice. A fast manufacturing process (rapid prototyping) also protects your business against overstocking when demand suddenly plummets. A speedy manufacturing process allows you to scale down supply without worrying about meeting sudden demand increases.
What is rapid prototyping?
Rapid prototyping uses 3D computer aided design (CAD) and manufacturing processes (typically additive manufacturing) to quickly develop 3D parts, models, or assemblies for research and development and/or product testing.
The use of rapid prototyping techniques allows design teams to develop multiple iterations of a design prototype without the added cost and time using traditional manufacturing and design techniques. Rapid prototyping uses modern manufacturing techniques to improve the design process – including overall cost and schedule – compared to traditional manufacturing and design techniques. But there are pitfalls to avoid when considering rapid prototyping – overuse, misuse, and misrepresentation.
Advantages of rapid prototyping
Earlier 3D visualization and testing
Rapid prototyping allows for 3D visualization and testing earlier in the design process – which enhances functional design processes as well as marketing/investment activities.
More design iterations at a lower cost
Design team innovation and creativity may also be enhanced because rapid prototyping allows for increased design iterations without the negative impacts to overall cost or schedule that would apply with traditional manufacturing techniques. Multiple design alternatives can also be developed and compared early in the design process.
Cost effective tool for product design and R&D
Rapid prototyping offers a cost-effective tool to facilitate product design and research and development. By adjusting the prototype fidelity, rapid prototyping can be used by the design team to evaluate overall product functionality or focus on key areas of interest and design attributes in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Better capacity for innovation
A business needs to constantly improve its products to achieve success in a competitive marketplace. Having a fast and dependable, manufacturing process is important for innovation to be achieved. During the product development process, an efficient manufacturing process allows for better prototyping. Prototyping allows different designs and features to be tested and their viability to be evaluated. An efficient manufacturing process also allows a business to bring its ideas into the market faster, giving it an innovation advantage over its competitors.
Reduced operating costs
Productivity in any process is often accompanied by cost-efficiency – and this applies to the manufacturing process as well. Being able to manufacture more products in a day results in better economies of scale as the marginal cost of production is significantly reduced. Reducing the manufacturing costs allows a business to competitively price its products and/or increase their profit margins. Speed is also a mark of efficiency, showing that the manufacturing technology used is optimized with very little wastage. This reduces the cost of purchasing raw materials.
Increased customer satisfaction
Convenience is one of the more significant determining factors when it comes to customer satisfaction. Having a fast manufacturing process enables you to fulfill orders in a shorter time period. In fact, established CNC machining services like 3D Hubs can begin production on an order within 5 minutes after uploading the design. Speed also allows a business to offer customized versions of their products that better suit their customers’ needs. A satisfied customer will not only remain loyal to the brand, they will act as unofficial brand ambassadors within their spheres of influence.