AM is one of the key drivers behind the recent shift from centralised to decentralised manufacturing – but what are the benefits and how can businesses take advantage?

What is centralised and decentralised manufacturing?

In the manufacturing world, businesses at scale face a crucial decision: centralised or decentralised manufacturing. Centralised manufacturing, a long-established model, involves producing goods in a single, high-volume facility before distributing them to various locations. On the other hand, decentralised manufacturing spreads production across multiple facilities, typically closer to the point of use, allowing for lower volume production tailored to specific needs.

Which is better – decentralised or centralised manufacturing? 

To an extent, that depends on the business. Centralised factories can be cheaper to To an extent, that depends on the business. Centralised factories can be cheaper to run (typically 3%) and may prove an efficient model if the business simply needs to turn out a small variety of products at mass quantities.

However, the flipside is a lack of flexibility. If changes are made to a product’s specification or a new product is required, a centralised factory’s entire production line – tools, jigs, moulds, even personnel – might need to be overhauled. That means downtime – and inevitably expense. Factor in the cost and potential supply chain issues of transporting goods and centralised manufacturing certainly has its flaws.

In recent years, the sector has increasingly leaned towards decentralised manufacturing. There are established reasons for this: while a business will need to invest more at the outset, decentralised factories give the flexibility to pivot based on changes in customer demand and market forces, allowing the company to easily create custom parts, bring them to market faster and massively cut shipping costs. But the key reason for the recent surge towards decentralised manufacturing is AM, whose agile technology perfectly complements this dynamic production model.

Advantages of AM for decentralised manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM) and decentralised manufacturing are a natural fit, it’s no wonder these two manufacturing concepts go hand-in-hand. Decentralised manufacturing is all about flexibility, customisation and local production – all of which naturally play to the strengths of additive manufacturing technologies.

With AM, it’s feasible for factories to produce parts on demand, in small-volume batches or as one-off components, with a 3D printer from a leading brand like Stratasys easily reconfigured for the job at hand (unlike the unwieldy and inflexible production lines of the old days). The bottom line is that manufacturers can react in real-time to constantly shifting market demands, producing a wider range of products using the same equipment.

Meanwhile, AM’s efficiency and environmental benefits cannot be overlooked. Rather than produce parts onsite then ship them across the world, a designer can make a series of reactive changes to a product’s specification on their laptop in the USA, before sending the latest iteration to a factory in China for it to be produced on a 3D printer. Factor in AM’s reduced waste and energy requirements and it’s clear why forward-thinking manufacturers have adopted this technology in their decentralised operations.

Partnering with Experts in Additive Manufacturing

For manufacturing businesses looking to leverage the potential of AM, the 3D Print Academy is here to help. As the UK’s first Authorised Stratasys Training Centre, we offer state-of-the-art facilities, expert trainers, and a comprehensive range of 3D printer training courses. Our team is ready to enhance your skills and integrate AM into your operations.

Whether you need training or consultancy services, our experts are prepared to assist with all aspects of AM. Contact us at 03332 075 660 or to discover how we can support your business in embracing the future of manufacturing.


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