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Distributed Manufacturing – A Case Study Unfolding

February 3. 2023. 6 mins read

It’s tough to teach leadership skills, but it’s easier to teach people how to become more comfortable making decisions with limited information. That’s what the HBS Case Method is about. Take a bunch of tomorrow’s leaders who forked over six figures for a network that ultimately won’t live up to their expectations and serve them a business scenario. Have them visualize what the outcome might be, then compare that to what actually transpired. Someday, distributed manufacturing will probably be a case study.

The Distributed Manufacturing Story

Distributed manufacturing is about disrupting the disparate domain of machine shops scattered across the globe with AI-powered software for estimating jobs in real-time along with new manufacturing technologies like metal 3D printing. The idea has been described by any number of names including:

  • Manufacturing On Demand
  • On-Demand Manufacturing
  • Manufacturing-as-a-Service
  • Digital Manufacturing
  • Cloud Manufacturing
  • Contract Manufacturing
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Global manufacturing is a trillion-dollar industry, so capturing one percent of that opportunity is a $10 billion run rate. That’s the idea, but what transpired hasn’t matched the lofty expectations. Among the many distributed manufacturing players, two dominant business models have emerged – doing the manufacturing in-house or farming it out to others.

In-House Distributed Manufacturing

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