What is Make To Order - MTO

Make to order (MTO) is a business production strategy that typically allows consumers to purchase products that are customized to their specifications.


The make to order (MTO) strategy only manufactures the end product once the customer places the order, creating additional wait time for the consumer to receive the product, but allowing for more flexible customization compared to purchasing directly from retailers' shelves.

Traditional production methodologies produce products and stock them as inventory until a customer buys them. This is known as make to stock or MTS. However, this system may be prone to wastage and obsolescence, as inventory sits on shelves awaiting purchase. This problem is particularly acute in an industry like technology, where the pace of advancement is quick and the problem of obsolete inventory could quickly arise.

In order to manage inventory levels and provide an increased level of customization, some companies adopted the make to order production system. The MTO strategy relieves the problems of excessive inventory that is common with the traditional MTS strategy. Dell Computers is an example of a business that uses the MTO production strategy, wherein customers can order a fully customized computer online and receive it in a couple of weeks.

Known as Made to Order or Build To Order

Make to order, also referred to as build to order or made to order, is a manufacturing process in which the production of an item begins only after a confirmed customer order is received. This type of manufacturing strategy is referred to as a pull-type supply chain operation, because products are only made when there is a firm customer demand. This pull-type production model is employed by the assembly industry where the quantity needed to be produced per product specification is one or only a few. This includes specialized industries such as construction, aircraft and vessel production, bridges, and so on. MTO is also appropriate for highly configured products such as computer servers, automobiles, bicycles or products that are very expensive to keep inventory.

The Advantage

The main advantage of the MTO system is the ability to fulfill an order with the exact product specification required by the customer. Sales discounts and finished goods inventory are also reduced, and stock obsolescence is managed. However, for an MTO system to succeed, it should be coupled with proactive demand management. It should also be considered that the MTO system is not appropriate for all types of products.