What Is Make-to-Assemble?

A make-to-assemble or MTA strategy is a manufacturing production strategy wherein a company stocks the basic components of a product based on demand forecasts but does not assemble them until the customer places an order. This allows for order customization. MTA production is basically a hybrid of two other major types of manufacturing production strategies: make-to-stock (MTS) and make-to-order (MTO).

Make-to-Assemble Explained

With MTS, businesses base their production on demand forecasts and final products are assembled before customers have ordered them. Customers can thus get items quickly, but only if the correct quantities have been manufactured, and businesses risk overproduction. At the opposite end of the spectrum, MTO creates items to customer specifications after they are ordered, so it is sometimes a slow process. The MTA production strategy is not as flexible for businesses as the MTO strategy, though MTA allows customers to get their orders sooner.

Industries That Use Make-to-Assemble

Aspects of the foodservice and restaurant industry may use a make-to-assemble strategy when serving customers. In a restaurant, the ingredients for an entrée may be present in the establishment’s refrigerator, awaiting assembly when a customer requests the item. The degree of assembly may vary, as certain parts of the dish might be premade or precooked. For instance, a quick-serve restaurant may use some frozen food items that simply need to be heated before being added to other items that are part of the order.

The make-to-assemble strategy may be adopted by independent fabricators and product makers who sell their wares through marketplaces while maintaining unassembled parts in storage. For example, sellers on platforms such as Etsy might stock the pieces to create apparel or accessories they offer for sale. Similar sellers who use 3D printers might adopt a comparable strategy, keeping parts and pieces they crafted at the ready to be assembled when a customer puts in an order.

Reasons for Using Make-to-Assemble

Reasons for using a make-to-assemble strategy for production vary, though may be based on ease of storage or the shelf life of the product. Food products, for example, typically have a window of time when the items remain fresh. The final product, once complete, might also have a short time when it is edible. Storing the ingredients separately until they are needed is a common way to be more efficient. Depending on the type of product, it may be logistically more feasible to store the parts rather than the final product.