Flexible manufacturing processes help meet shifting consumer demand

Home & Lifestyle trends move fast. Companies must stay ahead of the curve to deliver the products consumers want, when and where they want them. That’s why leading manufacturers need more agile, flexible and sustainable supply chains. Digitalized operations adapt to quickly changing requirements, from seasonal spikes in demand to rapidly shifting consumer tastes.

When American actress Meghan Markle married Britain’s Prince Harry in 2018, demand soared for Art Deco and aquamarine rings like those worn by the bride and wedding guests. It was just one of the trends affecting UK jewelry sales that year, according to the UK’s Professional Jeweller website. Other trend-inducing events included soaring demand for lab-grown diamonds following the launch of De Beers’ LightBox brand and the fashion comeback of charms, which caused Danish jewelry brand Pandora’s new bracelet concept to sell out in record time.

Such spikes in demand are not unique to the jewelry industry. For companies across the Home & Lifestyle sector, spotting and responding to market trends can bring big rewards – but only if manufacturers are agile enough to take advantage of the shift.

RETHINKING MANUFACTURING

Sophisticated technology is another development that makes it essential for companies to rethink how they develop and manufacture products.

“As more consumer products are connected devices, their lifecycle gets shorter because they need to keep up with the latest digital technologies to be relevant,” said Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of custom prototypes and on-demand production parts for companies in the medical devices, electronics, appliances, automotive and consumer products markets. “This requires manufacturers to find product development techniques which can accelerate time to market.”

Consumers also want customized products that meet their unique needs. “Manufacturers are responding to this with more mass-customized products, which require them to develop digital manufacturing processes and supply chains which can economically, reliably and quickly produce at smaller volumes,” Holt said.

The only way companies can achieve such speed and agility? By adopting a new business model centered around digital manufacturing strategies.

MEETING SHIFTS IN DEMAND

For Pandora, meeting demand means producing 117 million pieces of jewelry across 1,500 designs, with more than 500 new lines added every year. Add the complication of ensuring that those pieces are available when and where consumers want to buy them – across more than 7,800 points of sale in more than 100 countries – and the complexity is awe-inspiring.

”SHORTER PRODUCT LIFECYCLES AND INCREASING DEMAND FOR CUSTOMIZATION WILL CONTINUE TO SPUR INNOVATION IN DIGITAL MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES, BUSINESS MODELS AND WAYS TO ADD VALUE TO THE PRODUCTS CUSTOMERS WANT.”

VICKI HOLT PRESIDENT AND CEO, PROTOLABS

By digitalizing tactical and operational production planning at its three crafting facilities in Thailand, Pandora is combining automated production with hand finishing.

Digital supply chains, meanwhile, provide the agility the company needs to achieve high utilization and on-time delivery by factoring in peaks in seasonal consumer demand. The result? Pandora will significantly reduce production lead times so it can bring new products to market faster, keep up with demand spikes and build customer interest in its modern jewelry.

“With an advanced planning system supporting our capacity expansion program, we will be able to scale up manufacturing capacity, increase our efficiency and increase agility to satisfy the demands of our valued customers,” said Thomas Touborg, senior vice president, group operations at Pandora.

DELIVERING THE GOODS

In kitchen design, customization is king.

“As the kitchen continues to move from a utilitarian area to the entertainment and leisure hub of the home, the decisions driving a new kitchen installation become more complicated,“ UK market analysis firm Trend Monitor noted in its “2018 Kitchen Purchasing Trends” report.

Schmidt Groupe is France’s biggest manufacturer of custom kitchen and bathroom fittings and storage solutions, selling its Cuisinella and Cuisines Schmidt brands through a network of 610 stores across Europe. The company prides itself on its unique ecosystem, which controls every step of customer value creation from design through production and distribution.

To support that ecosystem, Schmidt Groupe implemented a business innovation platform that enables it to optimize production across its four sites in France and Germany. Sales and operations planning, master scheduling, general transport planning and resource optimization, along with crucial insights into manufacturing capacity and capability to promise, enable the company to optimize its resources and synchronize business-critical activities. The platform now plans the fulfillment of 2,000 orders per day and helps to plan the company’s 200 delivery schedules, ensuring customers receive their orders on time. “Schmidt Groupe (formerly known as SALM) became the industry leader in France and fifth largest in Europe thanks to sustained innovation efforts that included continuous improvement of our processes,” said Jacques-André Feraud, project manager at Schmidt Groupe. “The solution enables us to commit to reliable delivery dates throughout Europe. This helps us maintain excellent service levels, which will enable us to further expand our presence internationally.”

READY AND RESPONSIVE

Adapting to changes in consumer demand involves the entire value chain, from supply to production to delivery – and digitalization is the key. “Shorter product lifecycles and increasing demand for customization will continue to spur innovation in digital manufacturing technologies, business models and ways to add value to the products customers want,” Protolabs’ Holt said.

“Digital manufacturing enables the rapid, reliable production of prototypes and low-volume, on-demand products, and gives product developers, engineers, and supply chain managers access to tools to help them do their jobs better. In doing so, it helps manufacturing companies to accelerate innovation, reduce risk and optimize their supply chains so they can seek a competitive advantage by responding to consumer demands.” ◆

by Jacqui Griffiths Back to top
by Jacqui Griffiths

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