Have it your own way

Mass customized enclosures solve problems for low volume high value producers, explains co-founder of Protocase, Dr Douglas I. Milburn

As our economy evolves, more and more North American companies are focusing on market niches to create precisely targeted end products. These low volume high value (LVHV) companies face special challenges, particularly when sourcing electronic enclosures.

Part of the problem is rooted in low production volumes, often in the tens or hundreds of units per year. To meet the minimum order quantities specified by traditional enclosure manufacturers they may have to buy enough product for a year or more. This results in a large amount of inventory sitting on the shelf, tying up cash and space.

Slow moving inventory poses a special risk to companies with rapidly evolving products, necessitating costly modifications to enclosure inventory, or even rendering it totally obsolete.

In the past, LVHV manufacturers often chose to use off-the-shelf enclosures, but this has a major drawback because they have to be modified before use. Drilling holes, adding fasteners, printing graphics and labels all add cost and time.

Fortunately, mass-customization manufacturing is a new sourcing option ideal for LVHV. It applies mass production principles to the manufacture of goods at low volumes, down to a quantity of one.

Having pioneered the application of mass customization to sheet metal electronics enclosures,  Protocase also borrowed techniques from lean manufacturing, which means it can produce custom electronic enclosures at volumes as low as one, in as little as two to three days.

As a result, Protocase is extensively used by LVHV companies to solve their supply chain challenges. A blanket order program allows customers to make a purchasing commitment for an annual volume and receive pricing based on that. They then order releases when they want, in the quantity they require.

Each release is rapidly manufactured and shipped to the customer, who is then invoiced only for the product they receive. That way, no excess cash or shelf space is tied up and design changes can be accommodated to dramatically reduce the risk of obsolete inventory.