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When it comes to manufacturing products for your e-commerce store, you have no shortage of options to consider. While deciding between various production methods can feel a bit overwhelming at first, having so many options is actually a good thing.

This allows you to identify the production method that will work best for your e-commerce store and find the right partners that will help bring your products to life. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at what different e-commerce production methods have to offer for your business.

  1. Mass Production

Mass production is a manufacturing process that typically uses assembly lines and automation to create products in bulk. Mass production is generally used when an e-commerce business needs to manufacture a large quantity of items that will be identical to each other. There is no customization between batches, but instead, large runs of identical products.

Mass production’s use of automation results in lower labor costs, and because there is minimal changeover time in the production processes, large quantities of goods can be manufactured in a relatively short period. In many cases, automated processes can create finished products much faster than human workers. The total cost per item ends up being much lower than with other manufacturing methods, with a standardized level of quality.

However, mass production requires a high initial cost to manufacture such a large order. This can make financing difficult for new e-commerce stores. In addition, mass production is only suited for standardized products. Customization isn’t really feasible.

  1. Batch Production

Batch production seeks a middle ground between mass production and the creation of custom products. In batch production, a group of products goes through each step of the manufacturing process together. A production run is split into multiple groups, allowing the manufacturing facility to pause and make adjustments to equipment between batches.

These adjustments at various stages of the manufacturing process allow for greater customization and variety to be produced — such as making adjustments to produce an article of clothing in multiple sizes or in different colors. While this takes longer than the continuous manufacturing processes used for mass production, it can help e-commerce businesses introduce a wider range of products and options to their store.

Batch production allows e-commerce stores to adjust their offerings more easily, while also improving quality control, since batches are inspected more frequently during the manufacturing process. However, this process can be more time-consuming and expensive than mass production, since frequent human intervention is needed to adjust equipment settings.

  1. Just-In-Time Production

Just-in-time, also sometimes referred to as lean manufacturing, is a process in which you produce the exact amount of product that your business needs at the time your customers need it. Rather than piling up excess inventory, you keep enough on-hand to meet current demand, and rely on demand forecasting and purchasing info to determine when to implement additional production in smaller batches.

When done right, just-in-time production can help e-commerce businesses become much more efficient, particularly by reducing storage needs. You won’t need to rent a large warehouse space for unsold inventory. Just-in-time production also reduces the risk of your business stockpiling large quantities of an item that ends up not being popular with customers.

However, just-in-time production does have greater risk for going out of stock of popular items due to supply chain disruptions. Poor inventory forecasting can also create stock issues.

  1. Job-Based Production

Job-based or job shop production is more in line with traditional craftsmanship, or what you would expect to find on an Etsy shop. Rather than being mass produced, individual products are crafted by a single person or a small group of people. A single “production run” may result in just one customized product, or at most maybe a dozen similar products. Custom jewelry and woodcrafts are common examples of this category.

Job-based production is well suited for higher-end, customizable products that can be sold at a higher price. These items typically carry a higher perceived quality due to the craftsmanship that goes into their production.

However, production is slow, and using highly specialized and skilled labor is more expensive on a per-item basis than other manufacturing options. Careful planning is needed to implement specific customer requests.

  1. Flexible Manufacturing Systems

Flexible manufacturing systems are also worth noting, as they allow for a more customizable approach to production that can respond well to changes. These systems typically rely on automated CNC machines, a material handling system and a central control computer.

By using this high-tech equipment, the manufacturing system and machinery can be changed relatively quickly to produce new products, use different machines to perform a desired operation and adjust the scale of manufacturing.

These systems can reduce costs per unit and lead times while increasing production rate and flexibility for production that relies on CAD or CAM. However, the equipment involved in these production systems is complicated, requiring significant pre-planning, maintenance and monitoring from skilled labor. These systems tend to be reliable and generate quality products, but close oversight is needed anytime adjustments are made.

Find What Works

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to selecting a production method for your e-commerce business. The right method ultimately comes down to the type of products you’re selling, the scope of your business, your budget and even your manufacturing preferences.

However, by identifying your preferred production process in advance, you will be better positioned to vet potential manufacturing partners and find the best fit for growing your e-commerce store.

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