Additive Manufacturing
What is it?
Layer-by-layer material addition to create objects.
How it works?
Builds objects from digital 3D files
How it differs?
Contrasts with subtractive manufacturing methods
3D printing, metal sintering
Design flexibility, less waste
Slower production, material limitations
Advanced Manufacturing
What is it?
Use of innovative technology in production
How it works?
Incorporates automation, robotics, AI, IoT
How it differs?
Enhances traditional methods with modern tech
Smart factories, digital twins
Increased efficiency, reduced labor
High upfront costs, complex integration
Contract Manufacturing
What it is?
Outsourcing production to third-party companies
How it works?
External company handles the production process
How it differs?
Allows businesses to focus on core competencies
Electronics assembly, apparel production
Cost savings, expertise access
Dependency, potential quality issues

Types of Manufacturing Strategies

Below are five popular types of manufacturing strategies that companies often adopt to meet customer demands and stay competitive.  

Made to Stock (MTS)

Made to Stock is a production strategy in which manufacturers produce high-volume items anticipating customer demand. This approach enables companies to rapidly address customer needs by maintaining a readily available inventory.

  • Mass Production: Creating a high volume of products in response to market dynamics helps companies keep up with demand while maintaining efficient production.
  • Lower Costs: Made to Stock benefits from economies of scale and cost efficiency. Bulk production results in lower costs per unit, which in turn makes products more affordable for consumers.
  • Standardized Products: MTS results in uniform products with limited customization options. However, the advantage of focusing on creating standardized goods results in a streamlined and less complex production process.
  • Quick Delivery: MTS ensures that products are readily available for customers. A large inventory enables companies to deliver orders quickly and efficiently.
  • Examples: Items typically produced using the Made to Stock method include canned goods, electronics, and clothing.

Made to Order (MTO)

Made to Order involves manufacturing items only upon receipt of customer orders. This approach ensures that tailored and highly customized products meet customers' unique personalized requirements.

  • Customization: MTO production delivers goods individually designed and tailored for specific customers. This method provides high levels of personalization, customization, and customer satisfaction.
  • Reduced Inventory Costs: Producing items only after receiving orders allows companies to minimize inventory costs. In other words, businesses can avoid unnecessary storage expenses and potential waste.
  • Increased Lead Time: Patience is a virtue with MTO production. Because of the degree of customization, MTO requires more time for production and delivery. Thus, customers must be willing to wait longer for their products.
  • Higher Prices: Due to the customization involved, Made to Order production tends to result in higher production costs and costs for consumers.
  • Examples: Made to Order products, such as bespoke suits, personalized jewelry, and custom furniture, are expertly crafted to provide a unique and tailored experience for each customer.

Made to Assemble (MTA) / Assemble-to-Order (ATO)

Made to Assemble is a production approach where parts are created separately and assembled according to customer orders. This method takes elements from Made to Stock and Made to Order strategies.

  • Efficiency: As mentioned, MTA balances efficiency by combining the benefits of both MTS and MTO. This approach helps companies remain agile and adaptive while maintaining a steady flow of products.
  • Flexibility: MTA can adapt to customer orders during the assembly process. This benefit allows companies to offer a degree of customization without sacrificing speed.
  • Shorter Lead Times: Made to Assemble provides faster production times than Made to Order. This approach allows customers to receive their products more quickly than fully customized items.
  • Moderate Customization: MTA/ATO permits customization within a set range of predefined options. While not offering complete personalization like MTO, it provides a level of tailored variety for customers.
  • Examples: Manufacturers often use the Made to Assemble method to produce products like computers, bicycles, and modular furniture. These products offer a degree of customization while still maintaining efficient production and assembly processes.

Configure to Order (CTO)

Like MTA, Configure to Order is a production approach that balances customization and efficiency. By providing customers with pre-designed components, this approach enables the creation of tailored products for specific needs, emphasizing personalized solutions and maintaining smooth and streamlined production processes.

  • Uniqueness in Mass Production: CTO enables customers to create personalized products within the framework of mass production. Leveraging pre-made components for customization allows individual preferences to shine while ensuring efficient, streamlined production processes.  
  • Faster Turnaround Time: The CTO approach reduces production time compared to MTO. This results in quicker delivery of tailored products to customers.
  • Semi-Customized: While not 100% customizable, Configure to Order offers semi-customization based on various available options. Customers still have the opportunity to customize their products to a certain extent.
  • Lower Costs: By simplifying the production process and offering a limited range of customization choices, Configure to Order helps reduce overall expenses for both manufacturers and customers.
  • Examples: Products custom-configured using the Configure to Order method include laptops, smartphones, and cars. Each item allows customers to choose from pre-designed components to suit their preferences.

Engineer to Order (ETO)

Like MTO, the Engineer to Order method focuses on designing and manufacturing products to cater to each customer’s preferences. This manufacturing method is an excellent option when a client is looking for a carefully tailored and personalized product.

  • Highly Personalized: The ETO method produces extremely personalized items that serve specialized market niches. Manufacturers tailor-make products for each customer and cater to their specific requirements.
  • Complex Projects: Engineer to Order is perfect for complex projects that require custom engineering to meet specific demands. These projects often involve designing and seamlessly integrating multiple components and systems.
  • Extended Wait Times: Customization takes time, and ETO is no exception. This process can result in longer wait times from extended production, delivery, and design times, necessitating extra patience from the customer.
  • High Costs: Engineer to Order often comes with high costs because of significant custom design and manufacturing investments. The resources needed for customization can add up, resulting in a higher price for the end product.
  • Examples: Custom-built machinery, specialized equipment, and distinctive architectural designs are examples of products that benefit from the Engineer to Order approach. These items showcase the adaptability and versatility of this process.

Types of Manufacturing Processes

What Is a Manufacturing Process?

Companies of all shapes and sizes utilize different methods and techniques to transform raw materials into finished products. The table below details some standard and common examples of manufacturing processes

Repetitive Manufacturing
What is it?
Large volume production of identical items.
How it works
Assembly line setup with minimal changeover.
How it differs
Prioritizes efficiency and produces large quantities.
Car manufacturing
Cost-effective, consistent
Limited flexibility
Discrete Manufacturing
What is it?
Production of distinct, countable items.
How it works
Separate units produced individually.
How it differs
Products can be easily disassembled.
Electronics, toys
Customizable, easier quality control
Slower, more resource-intensive
Job Shop Manufacturing
What is it?
Small-scale, custom production runs.
How it works
Flexible setup for various products.
How it differs
Tailored to unique customer needs.
Machine shops, tooling
High customization, small batches
Longer lead times, higher costs
Continuous Process Manufacturing
What is it?
Uninterrupted production for consistent output.
How it works
Automated, continuous flow of materials.
How it differs
Ideal for high-volume, low-variability products.
Chemicals, oil refining
High efficiency, low labor costs
Expensive setup, inflexible
Batch Process Manufacturing
What is it?
Producing items in batches or groups.
How it works
Runs groups of products through each process.
How it differs
Balance between custom and high-volume production.
Food, pharmaceuticals
Flexible, cost-effective
Longer lead times, inventory management
3D Printing
What is it?
Additive manufacturing with layer-by-layer buildup.
How it works
Digital files dictate product's 3D structure.
How it differs
No need for tooling, minimal waste.
Prototypes, medical implants
Rapid prototyping, complex designs
Slower, limited materials
Lean Manufacturing
What is it?
Waste minimization and process efficiency.
How it works
Focuses on eliminating non-value-added activities.
How it differs
Maximizes customer value with fewer resources.
Toyota Production System
Higher efficiency, cost reduction
Initial investment, requires commitment
Custom Manufacturing
What is it?
Producing items to specific customer requirements.
How it works
Tailored production process accommodating unique designs.
How it differs
Well-suited for niche markets and one-off products.
Bespoke furniture, custom machinery
High levels of personalization, customer satisfaction
Higher costs and longer lead times

Types of Manufacturing Businesses

Let's discuss the various types of manufacturing businesses out there in the world today. Each manufacturing business has distinct attributes, characteristics, and products catering to different sectors and customers.

Food and Beverage Manufacturing

Food and Beverage Manufacturing is straightforward. The industry creates various food and beverage products catering to diverse preferences and dietary needs. Manufacturers in this sector ensure something for everyone while upholding safety standards.

  • Diverse Product Portfolio: The industry offers an extensive range of products, from snacks and beverages to prepared meals and more. This assortment guarantees a comprehensive selection that caters to different dietary needs and preferences.
  • Safety and Compliance: Food and Beverage Manufacturing prioritizes consumer health by enforcing strict quality control measures. These standards help maintain consistent product quality and ensure all items meet safety regulations.
  • Smart Packaging Solutions: Manufacturers in this sector utilize innovative packaging techniques to enhance product preservation. These methods improve product quality and extend the shelf life of consumable goods, reducing waste.
  • Adapting to Seasonality: The industry recognizes the importance of adjusting production strategies according to seasonal consumer demands and changing preferences. By responding to these fluctuations, manufacturers can maintain a relevant and appealing product lineup for 365 days.
  • New Product Development: Companies in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing sector consistently work on creating unique flavors and offerings to keep up with evolving consumer tastes. This ongoing innovation allows them to stay competitive and meet the market's ever-changing demands.

Chemical Manufacturing

Chemical Manufacturing is a vital industry that produces a diverse array of chemicals. In addition, this sector supports numerous sectors by supplying essential components and materials for many applications.

  • Broad Product Spectrum: Chemical Manufacturing encompasses various products, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and petrochemicals. This comprehensive selection ensures the industry can cater to multiple business needs and applications.
  • Cutting-Edge Tech: The sector leverages advanced machinery and tools to enable efficient and precise production processes. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology ensures that manufacturers can meet constantly evolving demands.
  • Strict Compliance: Chemical Manufacturing follows strict safety and environmental protocols to ensure responsible practices and minimize risk. By following these regulations, companies protect both their employees and the environment.
  • Innovation-Centric: The industry encourages advancements and improved processes that drive growth and enhance overall effectiveness. Embracing new ideas and innovations allows manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Extensive Industry Impact: Chemical Manufacturing produces essential components for various industries and applications. Its broad reach helps support the growth of numerous industries, such as agriculture, automotive, and pharmaceuticals.

Computer and Electronics Manufacturing

The Computer and Electronics Manufacturing industry is pivotal in developing advanced devices and gadgets that fuel technological progress in today's digital world. This sector consistently delivers innovative products, addressing the dynamic demands of consumers across the globe.

  • Rapid Product Evolution: Companies in this industry continually adapt to emerging technological advances, ensuring their ability to stay competitive in a constantly changing market. This adaptability is crucial for meeting and exceeding customer expectations for the latest technology.
  • Quality Assurance: Manufacturers in this sector prioritize rigorous testing and evaluation processes to guarantee that their products meet stringent performance standards. By ensuring quality and reliability, they maintain consumer trust and satisfaction.
  • Automation Integration: The industry is embracing advanced automation technologies, such as robots and AI, to enhance production processes, increase efficiency, and improve precision. This integration enables the development of more sophisticated products at a faster pace.
  • Global Supply Chain: Computer and Electronics Manufacturing companies collaborate with international resources to access materials, components, and markets. This worldwide network helps expand its reach, enhance competitiveness, and respond effectively to market demands.
  • Wide Product Range: The sector offers a comprehensive selection of products, including computers, smartphones, wearables, and smart home devices. This diverse product range caters to various technology preferences and requirements, ensuring there is something for everyone.

Automotive Manufacturing

Automotive Manufacturing creates vehicles, from personal cars to commercial trucks. By combining innovative design, engineering, and assembly processes, automotive manufacturing develops transportation solutions that cater to a diverse consumer base.

  • Complex Production: Automotive Manufacturing relies on intricate processes and collaborations with numerous suppliers. Doing so ensures each vehicle's seamless integration of different components and systems.
  • Innovative Designs: Automotive Manufacturing is committed to developing cutting-edge features and technologies. The objective is always to enhance the driving experience and meet evolving consumer expectations.
  • Safety and Performance: A primary focus of Automotive Manufacturing is to ensure that vehicles meet high safety and performance standards. Protecting passengers and providing a reliable driving experience is paramount.
  • Reducing Environmental Impact: The sector continuously strives to minimize its carbon footprint through eco-friendly production. Moreover, a priority is scaling up EV development and sustainable, energy-efficient vehicles.
  • Adapting to Market Trends: Automotive manufacturers closely monitor and respond to consumer preferences and trends. Doing so enables them to deliver relevant and appealing vehicle options for potential buyers.

Textile Manufacturing

Textile manufacturing converts raw fibers into fabrics suitable for everything from clothing to home furnishings and industrial applications. This manufacturing process incorporates numerous stages, such as fiber production, weaving, knitting, and dyeing, to create unique and functional textiles.

  • Fiber Production: Fiber production uses natural fibers like cotton and silk and synthetic fibers like polyester. These fibers are the foundation for the various fabrics manufactured in the textile industry.
  • Fabric Variety: Textile manufacturing employs techniques like weaving, knitting, and dyeing to create a wide range of textiles with distinct patterns, colors, and textures. This versatility allows for producing fabrics tailored to specific applications and consumer preferences.
  • Diverse Applications: Textile manufacturing supports various sectors, including fashion, home décor, and industrial applications. With adaptability and indispensability, the industry's ability to cater to diverse needs makes it a cornerstone of modern society.
  • Competitive Industry: Textile manufacturing thrives in a highly interconnected, competitive, and dynamic global market. Businesses must be agile and responsive to shifting trends, customer demands, and technological advancements to succeed.
  • Eco-Friendly Practices: The industry increasingly adopts responsible material sourcing and environmentally conscious production processes. As a result, textile manufacturers are continuously exploring innovations that minimize waste and reduce their ecological footprint.

Apparel Manufacturing

Apparel manufacturing is a dynamic industry that creates clothing items catering to diverse styles and markets. This manufacturing process encompasses multiple stages, from designing fashionable garments to ensuring their quality, fit, and ethical production.

  • Fashion-Forward Designs: Apparel manufacturers create clothing that aligns with current fashion trends and preferences. By staying in tune with the latest styles, they can produce stylish and relevant clothing.
  • Production Process: Apparel manufacturing involves multiple steps, including cutting fabric, sewing pieces together, and applying finishing touches. Each stage is essential in bringing a designer's vision to life and meeting customer expectations.
  • Quality and Fit: Apparel manufacturers prioritize producing durable, well-fitted, comfortable, and stylish garments. Paying close attention to these details helps maintain customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
  • Fast Fashion Response: The industry is known for quickly adapting to rapidly changing consumer preferences and fashion trends. Apparel manufacturers can keep up with market demands and remain competitive by staying agile and responsive.
  • Ethical Practices: A growing emphasis on ethical production focuses on fair labor practices and sustainable manufacturing processes. Apparel manufacturers increasingly recognize the importance of operating responsibly and prioritizing the well-being of workers and the environment.

Medical Device Manufacturing

Medical device manufacturing is integral to healthcare by developing and producing innovative and life-saving devices that improve patient outcomes. This highly specialized manufacturing field requires strict adherence to regulatory standards and a dedication to research and development.

  • Vital Healthcare Products: Medical device manufacturers produce essential products for diagnostics and treatment. These devices cover applications from diagnostic imaging to surgical instruments and support healthcare practitioners in delivering effective patient care.
  • Strict Regulatory Compliance: Medical device manufacturing is subject to rigorous regulations to ensure the safety and efficacy of devices. Manufacturers must adhere to these stringent standards to protect patients and promote safe solutions.
  • Cutting-Edge Technology: Medical device manufacturers incorporate technological advancements into their products. By embracing R&D and innovation, they can develop devices that improve patient care and outcomes.
  • R&D Focus: The industry moves forward by intensely prioritizing research and development. Medical device manufacturers create groundbreaking devices by dedicating resources to new product development while contributing to healthcare’s ongoing evolution.  
  • Global Market Presence: Medical device manufacturers supply vital equipment and devices to healthcare providers worldwide. Their global reach ensures that life-saving technologies are accessible to patients and medical professionals anywhere in the world.

Plastics Manufacturing

Plastics manufacturing produces a wide variety of versatile materials used in many applications across a broad range of industries. It includes diverse types of plastics, various manufacturing processes, and a commitment to recycling and innovation.

  • Material Variety: Plastics manufacturing offers an array of materials, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and PVC, each with unique properties and applications. This material diversity allows manufacturers to create specialized and tailored products.
  • Manufacturing Processes: Key processes in plastics manufacturing include injection molding, extrusion, and blow molding. These techniques enable the creation of products, from containers and packaging materials to automotive components and consumer goods.
  • Broad Applications: Plastics manufacturing serves numerous industries, including packaging, automotive, and consumer goods. The versatility and adaptability of plastic materials make them indispensable in addressing various challenges and demands.
  • Recycling Initiatives: The industry increasingly prioritizes recycling and waste reduction to minimize environmental impact. Plastic manufacturers are developing innovative ways to reuse plastic materials and create products with a smaller ecological footprint.
  • Continuous Innovation: Plastics manufacturing is characterized by relentlessly pursuing new materials and techniques to enhance product performance and sustainability. This commitment to innovation helps the industry remain competitive and responsive to an evolving market.

Traditional Types of Manufacturing Methods

What Is Traditional Manufacturing?

Traditional manufacturing methods have withstood the test of time. They are tried-and-true techniques that continue to play an integral role in manufacturing and production. However, do you know what the best part is? They're easy to understand! Let's glance at some of these classic methods in a simple and digestible table

What is it?
The process of removing material to shape parts.
How it works
Cutting, drilling, or grinding away excess material.
How it differs
A high precision, subtractive process.
Milling, turning, and drilling
Excellent surface finishes and high-quality outputs.
Significant material waste and requires expensive tooling.
What is it?
Connecting two or more parts together.
How it works
Uses methods like welding, adhesive, or screws.
How it differs
Different methods offer varied strengths.
Welding, riveting, soldering
Strong connections, versatile
Skill-intensive, possible distortion
What is it?
Shaping materials without removing parts.
How it works
Applies force to reshape material permanently.
How it differs
No material removal, usually less waste.
Forging, bending, rolling
Less waste, energy-efficient
Limited shapes, high setup costs
What is it?
Pouring liquid material into a mold.
How it works
Material solidifies, taking on the mold's shape.
How it differs
Mold determines the final shape of the part.
Sand casting, die casting
Complex shapes, low material waste
Lower accuracy, long cooling times

The Future of Manufacturing: Trends and Predictions

As the manufacturing industry gears up for unprecedented change, it ventures into a new era of technology. This closing section unveils some innovative trends poised to redefine the industry, from processes to types of manufacturing. 

Greater Integration of Automation and Machine Learning

  • Enhanced Productivity: Integrating automation and machine learning optimizes manufacturing processes, leading to reduced human error and more efficient factories.
  • Wiser Decisions: By integrating automation and machine learning into manufacturing, companies can drive smarter decision-making. Automation streamlines routine tasks, while machine learning algorithms analyze data patterns to generate actionable insights. 

Increased Use of Sustainable and Eco-friendly Manufacturing Practices

  • Green Manufacturing: Embracing a transition to sustainable and environmentally conscious practices can diminish waste, save energy, and shrink carbon footprints.
  • Competitive Advantage: Eco-friendly manufacturing can boost a company's reputation by showcasing its environmental commitment. It can also lead to cost savings through improved resource efficiency and contribute to long-term business success by aligning with growing sustainable product demand.  

Adoption of Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Technologies

  • Faster Prototyping: 3D printing allows for quicker prototyping, reduced production costs, and boundless customization opportunities.
  • Small-batch Manufacturing: Additive manufacturing is ideal for producing small quantities of products, enabling greater flexibility and lower inventory costs.

Emphasis on Supply Chain Resilience and Agility

  • Diversified Networks: Manufacturers are focusing on diversifying their supply chains to better manage risks and adapt to changes quickly.
  • Technological Solutions: Industries actively harness cutting-edge technologies to enhance supply chain responsiveness and boost efficiency. 

Expansion of Smart Factories

  • Connected Ecosystem: Smart factories utilize connected devices, sensors, and data analytics to optimize production and improve product quality.
  • Game-changing Efficiency: The heightened productivity of smart factories can significantly reduce production times and costs, leading to improved business outcomes. Furthermore, this efficiency can enhance product quality and consistency, setting new industry standards. 


What types of jobs are available in manufacturing?

Manufacturing jobs vary from assembly line workers to engineers and data analysts. New opportunities arise with advancements in robotics and automation.

How do you start a manufacturing company?

Launching a manufacturing company begins with thorough market research and identifying a niche. Next, craft a compelling business plan and secure funding before establishing a facility. Lastly, always make sure you follow local rules and regulations.

Where can you get manufacturing loans?

For manufacturing loans, explore banks, credit unions, government-backed programs, peer-to-peer lending platforms, or seek investors who share your vision. You could also consider manufacturing equipment financing to acquire necessary equipment for your operations.

About the Author

Christopher Murray

Bobby Samuels

Writer and Business Communications Consultant

Bobby's introduction to stock options at a hi-tech firm left him perplexed and determined to expand his knowledge in finance. He pursued a Master's degree in Finance at Harvard University. His diverse client base that includes CEOs, CFAs, private equity executives, venture capitalists, global investment firms, real...

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