The benefits of on-demand manufacturing are pretty obvious. In short, making one product at a time (and only making it when a customer orders it) eliminates many of the biggest challenges in retail and opens up a world of possibilities. This is even more true when print on demand is combined — and it often is — with direct shipping from wherever it’s produced.
This kind of small-scale fulfillment allows basically anyone to:
… try new ideas with zero risk
… respond quickly to trends
… offer highly customized products
… run a large business without facilities or labor
… eliminate storage, packing, and shipping work
It goes without saying that these particular benefits are a huge deal to small businesses run by relatively few people, because more than anything, they reduce risk and overhead — two things smaller businesses often can’t afford to take on.
But there are also major, less obvious benefits to large businesses that are used to the logistics that come with bulk manufacturing.
Products that are made one at a time are, in a way, essentially hand-made. By definitions, there is no assembly line to systematically crank out the same product in the exact same way. Even when you make say, ten units on demand, because there’s no way to predict that ten unit order, there’s no process that can make ten units more consistently than one.
As a result, no two on-demand products are exactly the same. In print products, you’ll see this manifest in the form of slightly different locations for the print area across multiple units. This doesn’t mean a product was produced incorrectly; it just means it was made by a person, like every print on demand product.
One last challenge that’s somewhat unique to print-on-demand is production capacity. Since orders are processed and produced as they arrive, it’s impossible to prepare for spikes (holidays, sales, etc.) the same way you might with traditional manufacturing — namely, by investing a lot of money in upfront bulk production and storage. If there’s a sudden crush of orders sent to a single manufacturer, it’s entirely possible that there simply won’t be enough people and machines to produce them all at normal speeds.
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Credit: Gooten Print on Demand 101