High volume manufacturing vs. Low volume manufacturing

This article explains the two different production methods, High Mix / Low Volume (HMLV) & Low Mix / High Volume (LMHV) and compares the advantages and disadvantages of both strategies.

Businesses constantly strive to optimize production scales and manufacturing strategies. At the heart of this challenge are two predominant models: Low Volume Manufacturing, often associated with High Mix / Low Volume (HMLV), and High Volume Manufacturing, typically seen in Low Mix / High Volume (LMHV) scenarios. 

Each model offers distinct advantages and covers certain market demands. This article explains the two different production methods and compares the advantages and disadvantages of both strategies. However, before diving into the practical implications of each method, it is essential to get a clear understanding of the concepts.

What is low volume manufacturing?

Low Volume Manufacturing (LVM) primarily focuses on producing a limited number of products, tailored or customized to specific requirements. It is often interchanged with High Mix / Low Volume manufacturing. In essence, the “High Mix” component refers to the ability to manufacture a wide range of different products in smaller quantities.

Characteristics of low volume manufacturing are:

  • Shorter production runs
  • Greater emphasis on customization and adaptability
  • Typically serving niche markets or catering to specific customer demands

Examples of low volume manufacturing

Examples of low volume manufacturing include:

  • Bespoke jewelry: custom-made pieces tailored to individual client specifications
  • Handcrafted furniture: artisanal pieces, often made-to-order, showcasing unique designs and craftsmanship
  • Prototype products: initial versions of a new product, created for testing and feedback before full-scale production
  • Limited edition goods: items like collector’s edition books, art prints, or commemorative products with a restricted production run
  • Custom automotive builds: cars or motorcycles tailored to specific customer requirements or for luxury markets
  • Specialized industrial components: parts produced for niche industries or specific, non-standard machinery
  • Personalized medicine: tailored medical treatments and drugs designed for individual patients, based on their genetic makeup or specific health needs
  • Specialized medical equipment: devices or tools made specifically for niche treatments or rare medical procedures

What is high volume manufacturing?

Conversely, High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) emphasizes the production of large quantities of standardized products. It typically benefits from economies of scale when mass-produced. Since this production method is also accompanied by a sense of rigidity, it is also called Low Mix / High Volume manufacturing. The “Low Mix” attribute denotes the limited variety of products, but produced on a much larger scale.

Characteristics of high volume manufacturing include:

  • Long, sustained production runs
  • Less emphasis on customization, more on consistency and repetition
  • Serves broader markets with standardized products

Examples of high volume production

The list is almost endless, but here are a few typical examples of high volume manufacturing: 

  • Smartphones: Brands like Apple and Samsung manufacture millions of units for global distribution.
  • Automobiles: Car manufacturers produce large numbers of specific models for worldwide sales.
  • Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG): Items like toothpaste, shampoo, and packaged foods are produced in massive quantities for global markets.
  • Electronics components: Resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits are produced in vast numbers for use in various devices.
  • Clothing: Popular clothing brands may produce a single shirt or trouser design in large quantities to meet global demand.
  • Bottled beverages: Companies like Coca-Cola or Pepsi manufacture billions of bottled drinks for worldwide consumption.
  • Plastic and paper bags: Used in retail and food industries, these are produced in large numbers due to their disposable nature.
  • Toys: Popular toy lines, especially around festive seasons, are manufactured in high volumes to meet global demand.

Differences between HMLV & LMHV

While both High Mix / Low Volume (HMLV) and Low Mix / High Volume (LMHV) revolve around producing goods, the approach, scalability, and specific nuances they offer can greatly vary. These differences are essential for any business when strategizing production lines and meeting market demands.

Production scale and flexibility

The scale at which goods are produced is perhaps the most evident distinction between HMLV and LMHV.

HMLV: 

  • Often operates on a smaller scale, focusing on limited production runs
  • Prioritizes flexibility, allowing for adjustments in production based on market feedback or changing demands
  • The “High Mix” component allows for diverse products to be created, addressing to niche or specialized markets

LMHV:

  • Operates on a grander scale, producing large quantities of a specific product
  • Production process is more rigid and streamlined, optimized for consistency and efficiency
  • Less diversity in product types, but higher output for each specific product

Costs and investments

The financial implications of each manufacturing type can vary significantly, with both having their own sets of advantages and challenges.

HMLV:

  • Initial setup costs might be lower, given the smaller scale.
  • Per-unit production costs can be higher due to the lack of economies of scale.
  • Greater flexibility means potential for quick adjustments, but at the expense of higher per-unit costs.

LMHV:

  • Initial investment costs are higher for setting up large-scale production lines.
  • It benefits from economies of scale, resulting in lower per-unit production costs.
  • LMHV have the potential for higher profit margins, given the larger quantities produced.

Quality control and customization

Quality control processes and the ability to customize products are pivotal in distinguishing these two manufacturing methods.

HMLV:

  • Given the emphasis on customization, there’s a heightened focus on quality control for each unique product variant.
  • HMLV allows for a more hands-on approach, adjusting and refining products based on specific customer feedback.

LMHV:

  • Quality control is more about maintaining consistency across large production batches.
  • Customization is limited, with the focus primarily on producing standardized products that meet a consistent quality benchmark.

Automation in manufacturing: HMLV vs. LMHV

Automation stands at the forefront of modern manufacturing, driving efficiency, reducing manual errors, and accelerating production rates. However, the way automation integrates within HMLV and LMHV differs due to their distinct production scales and objectives.

Automation in Low Mix / High Volume (LMHV) Manufacturing

In contrast, LMHV demands stability, consistency, and high-speed processing from its automation systems:

  • Streamlined processes: Given the large quantities, automation systems are designed for repetitive tasks, focusing on efficiency and speed.
  • Consistency: Automated quality control in LMHV emphasizes ensuring every product in vast batches meets the set standard.
  • Integration: Seamless integration between various automated components, like conveyors, robots, and inspection systems, is crucial for maintaining high production rates.
  • Predictability: The automation systems in LMHV are more predictable, operating under a set routine, which aids in maintaining consistent output levels.

Automation in High Mix / Low Volume (HMLV) Manufacturing

Automation within HMLV needs to be versatile, adaptable, and scalable:

  • Modularity: Given the diverse product mix in HMLV, automation systems must be modular, allowing for quick adjustments or changeovers between product variants.
  • Flexibility: Robots and automated systems need to cater to diverse tasks, sometimes even being reprogrammable on-the-fly to switch between product types.
  • Quality control: Automated quality checks become essential, especially when dealing with customized products, to ensure consistency across limited production runs.
  • Reduced setup times: Automated setups, which can swiftly adjust to different product configurations, become a valuable asset in HMLV environments.

Read more: Low volume manufacturing & automation solutions for increased efficiency

At ESSERT Robotics, High Mix / Low Volume is our daily business. Our process automation systems are designed with flexibility at their core, allowing for rapid changeovers between different products. Key of our approach is modularity. This ensures that businesses can customize their automation infrastructure as their needs evolve. Furthermore, the solutions are scalable, making them suitable for everything from laboratory settings to small-scale production environments.