Light Assembly

Written by Linda Alexander
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Many manufacturers and retailers today are postponing light assembly until orders come in. This process is called postponement, and it allows companies to respond faster to opportunities as well as offer more customization of products. It is an underutilized option that requires a redesign of manufacturing processes, as well as intense planning. But done correctly, it can be very profitable.

Warehouses today offer many value-added services, such as pick and pack, knitting, and light assembly. The assemble-to-order strategy allows products to be made specific to an order, and a number of products can be assembled in different forms from common parts. It also allows manufacturers and retailers to keep the right balance of inventory at different places in the product lifecycle.

Postponing Light Assembly

The reason that manufacturers are reluctant to use this powerful strategy is because it seems to go against logic. People are used to the idea of warehousing finished inventory. They are not yet comfortable with the idea of leaving unassembled products in storage. Inventory that requires personalization, light assembly, or packaging before the order is filled seems like it's not "finished." But using this strategy can be much more efficient when a product requires mass customization.

Another benefit of assemble-to-order products is that global vendors have it easier this way. Instead of making different products for different languages and countries, if the products are shipped in bulk, generically, to regional centers, final customization and packaging can take place as the order comes in. This way, fulfillment centers can customize merchandise closer to the consumer, with higher order fill rates and shorter lead times, leading to increased profits for the manufacturer.

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