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Surprising Science

Software Is the Future of Manufacturing

Powerful design tools and techniques such as 3-D printing will enable manufacturers to be more nimble, creating flexible strategies that deliver more customized products.

What’s the Latest Development?

Companies are changing their way of manufacturing products, opting for more design-oriented and personalized products. One new approach is known as E.T.O., or engineering to order, “in which businesses buying from manufacturers order by referring to a list of general rules, not a catalogue and price list. For each order, a manufacturer makes and assembles a product very specific to the customer’s needs. That approach also cuts costs, because raw materials and parts don’t have to be held in stock; rather, they can be purchased to match the latest order.”

What’s the Big Idea?

As China’s economy matures, labor costs are increasing so manufacturers are changing their production strategies. With the cheapest labor on the wane, companies are beginning to reconsider their previous method of achieving economies of scale by producing massive amounts of products at a very low cost-per-unit. “You don’t need to center everything on making millions of the same thing at the absolute cheapest price anymore,” says Buzz Kross, head of Autodesk’s manufacturing industry group, a creator of new design software. 


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