Posted June 24, 2021

Outsourcing Production with Manufacturing as a Service

Inspecting a shaft produced by manufacturing as a service CNC product development

Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) brings together external manufacturing engineers, outsourced production, and Just in Time (JIT) inventory management to reduce the time and cost needed to produce quality products. With the right partner, MaaS accelerates product development and transforms organizations’ processes to bring new products to market.

Companies of all sizes seek MaaS partners to help them scale in various ways. Outsourcing production with MaaS offers lower costs, on-demand production, reduced labor requirements, and a localized physical location of the manufacturer. A MaaS partner will provide a deeper relationship, improving quality and consolidating logistics.

Machine shops that focus on manufacturing as a service for CNC product development typically work with hundreds of clients across a broad array of industries, applications, and production methods. They apply their vast experience to complement the design-focused approach used by OEMs – as well as product designers, product engineers, and design firms. This application results in the best of both worlds: well-designed products that are efficient to manufacture and deliver.

The Difference Between Marketplace Manufacturing and MaaS

With the growing costs associated with CNC equipment, it has become increasingly difficult for individual manufacturers to support their in-house machine shops. Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) centralizes these traditional onsite operations into a shared resource operated by a single vendor. This centralization ensures that the equipment, skillset, and infrastructure work as efficiently as possible and is supported by a pool of customers whose diverse needs drive continual improvement of the vendor.

The Marketplace Economy, meanwhile, has spread beyond Uber and Airbnb and into precision manufacturing. For example, networks such as Dassault Systemes’ 3DExperience Marketplace pair product designers with available vendors based on a range of criteria – such as capacity, location, and capabilities. The marketplace manufacturing networks work well with vendors using the MaaS model, as the online ordering services of the machine shops pair easily with the cloud services of the networks. However, some risks exist.

Individual MaaS vendors may vary in their quality control practices, and customers should check with the vendor to ensure that they receive the expected level of quality. In addition, some of the manufacturing capabilities between the individual vendors may vary, and customers should confirm their ability to hold required tolerances. And in some cases, special feature requests may require customers to communicate directly with the vendor.

“The marketplace model can be great for low volumes of simple parts, especially during the prototyping phase of product development. But it tends to lack true partnership with manufacturing engineers, which can offer critical value over the entire lifecycle of a product.”


Partnering with Manufacturing Engineers

MaaS partners design engineers with manufacturing engineers. Many often overlook this aspect of manufacturing. However, their complementary knowledge and experience often shorten the production process and reduce costs.

Product designers work to create the best part for each project. Therefore, they look to understand the context of how each part fits into the overall product’s larger schematic. As a result, they may not be as focused on the part’s manufacturability.

Manufacturing engineers offer unique insight into how best to produce a part. For example, they may have a deeper knowledge of specific materials or the capabilities provided by particular manufacturing processes. As a result, manufacturing engineers often suggest more efficient ways to produce a usable part, typically by iterating slightly on the original design.

Finishes offer a simplified example of how a manufacturing engineer can add value to a project. While a design engineer or product designer may justifiably want to create the best-looking part, a manufacturing engineer can point out where (for example) bead blasting might impact tolerances or when a glass-smooth finish might not be necessary for a part that’s not visible in the final, assembled product.

Making iterations like these on a part design may not save much in terms of prototyping quantities. Updating a design may even cost more than the savings realized at low volume. But manufacturing engineers consider scaled production – in which simple updates to a design can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings during the production life cycle of the part.

“We offer our MaaS customers a designated manufacturing engineer for expert guidance on machining capabilities. This personalized design experience helps our customers achieve the highest quality while working to ensure it is cost-effective over the life of the product.”


Manufacturing as a Service for Future Proof Supply Chains

Though manufacturing has made giant leaps in the last few decades in terms of efficiency and capabilities, it has come at the cost of added complexity. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, refers to this as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – in which the lines between the physical and digital world are blurring.

The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. Compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

There are more ways than ever to manufacture a part, with even more materials options. With this growth comes an ever-expanding knowledge base of capabilities, properties, specialties, and dependencies related to materials, processes, and machinery. In short, designing parts and manufacturing parts are now two distinct skill sets. Successful companies realize this distinction and find it more economical to outsource manufacturing rather than manage it internally.

There are also real and significant costs associated with keeping up with the continuous hardware, firmware, software, and best practices improvements associated with manufacturing. These costs can distract an organization from its ability to develop and bring compelling products to market. MaaS shifts these costs to the manufacturer, who can justify them due to their scale and volume. Producing high volumes of parts over two or three shifts warrants a continuous investment in the latest technologies and processes. MaaS manufacturing partners can spread these costs across hundreds of customers and thousands of orders.

Just In Time Inventory Management

Just in Time (JIT), inventory management produces goods as they’re needed for manufacturing, avoiding the burden of carrying and managing excess inventory. Here are some of the benefits available from JIT inventory management:

  • JIT reduces warehousing and transportation costs by delivering parts or products directly from the manufacturer to where they are needed.
  • JIT requires less working capital because organizations only obtain inventory as needed.
  • JIT reduces the risks associated with inventories becoming obsolete.
  • JIT is a lean and environmentally-friendly manufacturing method. It keeps production runs short, leaving less stock on hand and more funds to invest elsewhere.

Toyota has embraced JIT manufacturing for many years. The company produces vehicles based on orders from its dealerships. For each vehicle, only the necessary supplies are ordered and sent from the supply chain. According to Toyota’s website:

(The) use of JIT within the Toyota Production System means that individual cars can be built to order and that every component has to fit perfectly the first time because there are no alternatives available.

Extending MaaS Relationships

Today, MaaS partnerships are evolving well beyond just contract manufacturing. MaaS manufacturers are finding new ways to serve their clients beyond design to manufacturing. Designated manufacturer resources also open up new production opportunities – such as sourcing, logistics, assembly, and planning.

At Plethora, we have the manufacturing as a service (MaaS) for CNC product development capabilities to help you achieve the next level in your business goals. Not only are our production and inventory processes refined for efficiency, but our engineers will work with you to ensure your design for full production. We are ISO 9001 certified, supporting our primary goal of manufacturing your parts to the highest level of quality. Our online DFM and quoting systems are ready to receive your data so we can begin working with you on your next project. To get started, upload your design files to Quote My Part or call us at 415-726-2256.Quote My Part


The Plethora Team

The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.

Topics: materials, Manufacturing, finishing, CNC machining, Prototyping, quality design, MaaS