Will collaborative consumption change manufacturing?23 December 2016

Collaborative consumption Collaborative consumption is the seamless circulation of products

Everyone has at least one old piece of clothing that they can't bear to throw away. Believe it or not, the situation is similar with spare industrial parts. Manufacturers often keep a huge amount of spares, despite rarely accessing these stocks. Here, Robert Holloway, head of order fulfilment at obsolete industrial automation parts supplier EU Automation explores the effects of collaborative consumption on the manufacturing industry.

Collaborative consumption is the seamless circulation of products and services among individuals through sharing, swapping, trading, renting, borrowing or giving. Collaborative consumption, also called the sharing economy, is likely to grow over the next few years as digital media increase in reach and functionality.

In the manufacturing industry, many companies purchase excessive amounts of replacement parts, which they can use in case of a breakdown. While it's good to plan ahead, this isn't necessarily the most effective option. Spare stock takes up space on the factory floor and needs to be maintained to retain its worth. There is little point in storing several replacement motors for years, only to find out that they have degraded so badly that they are unusable when needed. Unfortunately, many manufacturers are already in this situation and are unsure of what to do next.

On the other hand, most manufacturers find themselves in trouble when a machine part or component breaks down. Sometimes, a faulty part can shut down an entire production line. It is in these scenarios that access to replacement parts becomes crucial. Collaborative consumption in the manufacturing industry would allow companies with large stocks to relieve those that are desperate for a spare part.

Companies such as Etsy, Kickstarter and Vandebron pride themselves on their ability to unlock the value of underused assets by matching manufacturer and customer needs in ways that bypass the middleman. This is great, if consumers know the exact specification of the product they want. When it comes to manufacturing and industrial parts, the situation isn't always straightforward.

Especially in the case of old and obsolete parts, plant managers might find it difficult to identify and source a replacement quickly. This is when working with a well-connected supplier is particularly useful. At EU Automation, we source hundreds of thousands of industrial automation parts every year for clients around the world, ensuring production lines stay operating.

Holding on to old clothes might not take much effort, but in the manufacturing world, companies shouldn't have to sacrifice valuable factory space to store spare. As the collaborative economy becomes more common in manufacturing, we can expect to see part exchanges increase and stocks decrease.

Mark Venables

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