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Local on-demand fabrication: microfactories and online manufacturing platforms

Jose Orlando Montes (Department of Science, Technologie et Société, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
F. Xavier Olleros (École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 13 July 2020

Issue publication date: 5 January 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This article explores a particular on-demand fabrication unit, the microfactory (MF). It identifies and contrasts several MFs and proposes a taxonomy. This research also explores online manufacturing platforms (OMP) that complement certain MFs.

Design/methodology/approach

This research implements a multiple case study (71 cases in 21 countries), triangulating data available on the web with interviews, virtual/physical tours and experiential research.

Findings

The results suggest that automation and openness are the main dimensions that differentiate the MFs. Using these dimensions, a taxonomy of MFs is created. MFs with relatively low automation and high openness tend to be innovation-driven microfactories (IDMFs). MFs with high automation and low openness levels tend to be customization-driven microfactories (CDMFs). And MFs with relatively low automation and low openness tend to be classic machine shops (MSs). There are two types of OMP: closed (COMPs) and multisided (MOMPs). MOMPs can be low-end or high-end.

Practical implications

In a world where online platforms are becoming central to the reinvention of manufacturing, multisided online platforms and small fabricators will become strongly symbiotic.

Originality/value

This paper offers a clearer conceptualization of MFs and OMPs, which may help to better understand the reality of local on-demand fabrication. Moreover, it explores a new type of experiential research, which tries to describe and interpret firms through transactional activities. Many details of a firm that are difficult to capture via interviews and netnography can be revealed this way.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the interviewees for their valuable time, Oleg Litvinski for debriefing and auditing this paper, and the FRQSC and MinCiencias for the financial support.Declaration of conflicting interests: The authors have had no conflict of interest regarding this research project.

Citation

Montes, J.O. and Olleros, F.X. (2021), "Local on-demand fabrication: microfactories and online manufacturing platforms", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMTM-07-2019-0251

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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