Distributed manufacturing also known as distributed production and local manufacturing is a form of decentralized manufacturing practiced by enterprises using a network of geographically dispersed manufacturing facilities that are coordinated using information technology. It can also refer to local manufacture via the historic cottage industry model, or manufacturing that takes place in the homes of consumers.
The primary attribute of distributed manufacturing is the ability to create value at geographically dispersed locations via manufacturing. For example, shipping costs are minimized when products are built geographically close to their intended markets. Also, products manufactured in a number of small facilities distributed over a wide area can be customized with details adapted to individual or regional tastes. Manufacturing components in different physical locations and then managing the supply chain to bring them together for final assembly of a product is also considered a form of distributed manufacturing.
Within the maker movement and DIY culture, small scale production by consumers often using peer to peer resources is being referred to as distributed manufacturing. Consumers download digital designs from an open design repository website like Thingiverse and produce a product at home for low costs with an open-source 3-D printer such as the RepRap. Distributed manufacturing with distributed generation using solar photovoltaic cells and 3-D printers has been proposed as a means of off-grid rural area residents to manufacture themselves out of poverty.
Initial life cycle analysis indicates that distributed production can have a smaller impact on the environment than conventional manufacturing and shipping because of reductions in transportation embodied energy.
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