Production vs. Garage Production
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November 6, 2023
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Production vs. Garage Production

With the onset of the era of technological progress and the availability of semi-automatic metal processing equipment, the landscape of production capabilities has undergone significant changes. One key trend has been the growth of garage production – small but flexible production units located in private spaces, such as garages or small workshops. This contrasts with traditional industrial production, which utilizes large, well-organized factories with an extensive technological infrastructure. In this article, we will delve into the depths of these two models, examine their differences, advantages, and the challenges they face in the modern manufacturing market.

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PRODUCTION VS. GARAGE PRODUCTION: WHY CHOOSE A LARGE ENTERPRISE?

The emergence of relatively inexpensive Chinese semi-automatic metal processing machines on the market has led to the establishment of literal garage-based production of thin sheet metal products (this is not a figure of speech!). Self-taught craftsmen or small teams organized mini-firms for the production of ceiling panels, facade cassettes, components for metal fences, and so on.

Growing demand and high competition in this market segment have played their part: “garage” productions have firmly occupied the niche of the cheapest products. It is precisely for the sake of cost savings that customers turn to them – the semi-amateur workshop charmingly delivers products at relatively low prices, which is a decisive factor for many.

But is placing an order with such a company really profitable? Let’s attempt to analyze all aspects of collaboration and draw conclusions based on facts.

The organization of production in industrial enterprises significantly differs from small-scale or garage production approaches. Process standardization in large factories allows for a high degree of product standardization, which contributes to cost reduction and increased productivity. Specialization of workstations and the division of labor allow each worker to refine their skills in a specific production area, ensuring high quality and efficiency. Automation and the use of specialized equipment reduce dependence on the human factor and increase the accuracy of production processes. All of these factors together form a robust production system capable of ensuring stability and scalability in manufacturing.

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HOW IS PRODUCTION ORGANIZED?

To understand the fundamental differences between garage production and a full-fledged enterprise specializing in the production of thin sheet metal products, it is worth examining the organization of technological processes in both cases. It is reasonable to start the analysis with the factory scheme, which is more complex and detailed, but deviations from it are less common.

FACTORY FOR METAL PRODUCT MANUFACTURING

Most of the enterprises producing such products in Ukraine operate based on previously built factories. Over time, the profitability of these factories has decreased, and only reprofiling (sometimes with a change of ownership) has allowed them to survive, avoiding bankruptcy and complete shutdown.

With the increasing demand for products based on thin sheet metal, such factories:

  • Either construct new production facilities from scratch.
  • Or modernize existing facilities (fortunately, there are plenty of vacant workshops, and with sufficient investment, they can be quickly adapted to new technological processes).

The structure of these enterprises can vary, but it is often quite complex. Large enterprises often have their own design departments, which not only optimize production but also develop new products for the market. Additionally, the presence of a design department indirectly affects the quality of the produced items since their operational characteristics are based on more accurate calculations.

Another important aspect is the division of technological processes and the specialization of personnel:

  • Warehouse employees are responsible for the storage of raw materials and finished products. Well-organized warehouse logistics minimizes production lead times even when the enterprise is fully loaded, and the importance of lead times for customers will be discussed in a separate section. Proper storage also reduces the likelihood of defects at all stages of work.
  • The production of blanks and the final shaping of products are often carried out in different areas. Separation of technological processes with intermediate quality and size control allows minimizing labor costs in production and further reducing the percentage of defects by discarding damaged blanks.
  • Another important aspect is the automation of most processes and the specialization of operators – the fewer operations the worker needs to control, and the lower the role of the human factor, the better the final product will be.
  • Finally, an independent quality control service is the main barrier to defective products reaching the consumer. If the quality of manufacturing is checked by an independent employee who is interested in detecting any deviations from the standard, the likelihood of defective products being shipped to the finished product warehouse is minimized.

Thus, the key points will be:

  1. Division of technological processes.
  2. Specialization of personnel.
  3. Automation of work processes.
  4. Independent and multi-level quality control.

For comparison, let’s analyze how craft production of metal products is organized.

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CRAFT PRODUCTION OF FENCES OR FACADE PANELS

The ease of working with thin sheet metal has led to the emergence of small workshops equipped with basic machines for manual or semi-automatic cutting/bending. Initially, these machines were intended for producing parts for their own use or for manufacturing small batches of components. However, in Ukraine, they are increasingly being used for the mass production of simple and cost-effective ceiling panels, facade cassettes, and slats for metal fences.

Typical craft production is organized either in a small renovated workshop or in a complex of several garages. Sometimes, the products are manufactured right on the suburban plot, and in some cases, the equipment is simply placed under makeshift shelters. The standard organization of such production includes:

  • A limited product range, often one or two models. Changing the single machine for cutting or bending is difficult and time-consuming.
  • Raw materials are purchased in large quantities and stored directly in the production area.
  • Warehouse stocks are practically non-existent since small craft workshops lack the necessary funds and available equipped space to maintain them.

The production of blanks is carried out by the master themselves or by unskilled workers. In the former case, the labor costs for producing a single part increase, while in the latter, the quality decreases (the motivation of low-paid unskilled workers is extremely low, and there is little emphasis on production culture).

However, the critical aspects are the high proportion of manual labor in production (and hence the increased role of the human factor) and the lack of independent quality control. Compliance with project dimensions and specifications is often verified by the master who produces the part themselves, and for obvious reasons, defective products reach the consumer much more frequently.

In summary, craft productions are characterized by:

  • Low qualification of some personnel.
  • A relatively low level of specialization.
  • Limited automation of production.
  • Often, a formal quality control process.

All of these factors lead to a range of problems, which we will analyze in detail in the following sections.

QUALITY CONTROL

The first problem that product customers in “garage” companies face is the inconsistent quality of the products. The list of problems for most of these companies is quite typical:

  • Defects caused by the initially low quality of raw materials (90% of companies work with cheap Chinese metal, allowing them to compete based on price).
  • Violations of dimensions.
  • Deviations in the geometry of parts.
  • Traces of corrosion at places where the integrity of the polymer coating is compromised.
  • Different shades of parts for the same structure (the reason is simple – using metal from different batches, which can have different colors even with identical labeling).

Quality control is a crucial component of the production process that directly impacts the reputation and success of any manufacturer. Independent quality control conducted by specialized departments or external agencies is the key to an objective assessment of the product before it reaches the market. This not only helps identify and rectify potential defects before the product reaches consumers but also demonstrates the company’s commitment to high standards, increasing customer trust and strengthening the brand. Adequate quality control can also reduce long-term costs by preventing the production and delivery of defective goods.

THE ECONOMIC ASPECT OF PRODUCTION

The economic aspect of production is determined by the costs and the quality of the products, which directly affect pricing. Garage productions often offer lower prices, but they may struggle to guarantee consistent quality due to equipment limitations and control processes. In addition, large manufacturing enterprises invest significant resources in equipment, quality materials, and certification processes, which ensure higher quality but also increase the cost of their products. These expenses are reflected in prices, making products from large enterprises more expensive but also more reliable in terms of quality.

As previously mentioned, savings on raw materials are one aspect. Additionally, when organizing garage production, the simplest and cheapest machines are typically purchased (with the intention of future modernization, which rarely happens because “why bother when everything is working fine”). These machines are prone to problems related to the quality of cutting/bending, as well as dimensional inaccuracies, and fixing these issues is often only a temporary solution.

The qualifications of the personnel should not be overlooked. While the master or a team of masters may be quite professional, auxiliary personnel are usually hired based on availability. There is little emphasis on adhering to technology and production culture.

From this perspective, large-scale production appears to be far more advantageous:

  • Firstly, thanks to bulk purchases, a company can buy high-quality European metal at prices comparable to those of Chinese metal in small quantities. The quality of raw materials will be incomparably higher. European suppliers can easily replace defective batches with high-quality ones with much less difficulty.
  • Secondly, large-scale production (e.g., the “MehBud” factory, which can be considered as an example) is interested in upgrading its machinery. The use of modern CNC metalworking machines not only reduces the labor intensity of metal construction production but also minimizes defects through equipment adjustments.
  • Finally, the third point – personnel qualifications – is directly related to the second. Professional employees who have undergone training and continuous improvement are needed to work on CNC machines.
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In conclusion, it is important to note the varying effectiveness of quality control. Practice demonstrates that in garage production, only components with severe visual damage or noticeable deviations from the design dimensions are considered defective. In contrast, the multi-stage quality control system at large enterprises:

  • Prevents the appearance of defects in large quantities.
  • Identifies items with the slightest signs of defects and prevents their delivery to the customer.

ADHERENCE TO DEADLINES

Intuitively, it may seem that small-scale production working on only one order can complete it faster than a large factory with a queue of customers. In practice, the large factory almost always wins out due to:

  • Centralized procurement of raw materials (materials are supplied from stock, and there is no need to purchase them for a specific order).
  • Automation of production (producing standard parts on a configured machine takes much less time).
  • Optimal organization of business processes.
  • High qualification of personnel.

As a result, even with high production loads, when a factory operates around the clock, orders are produced quickly enough, allowing them to meet the agreed-upon deadlines.

There is also another important nuance related to rehearsal aspects. Large manufacturing plants set production deadlines with a slight margin – to ensure that the structures are guaranteed to be ready by the specified date. The production deadlines declared by semi-craft producers may be shorter, but for various reasons, they almost always increase after work on the order has started. As a result, there are difficulties in planning work: information that the production of a batch is delayed may arrive almost at the last moment. Delays are almost never announced in advance, with assurances given until the last moment that “everything will be done on time.”

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POSSIBILITIES

Another critical nuance is the production capabilities:

  • Semi-craft methods can only produce the simplest products with minimal quality and size requirements.
  • Production volumes are also limited, as panels for cladding a large facade force such production to be stamped out over several weeks.
  • Design possibilities are also limited – typically, a small company purchases metal in a few standard colors and offers products in a modest palette.

Therefore, if the task is:

  • Manufacturing complex structures with non-standard geometry (e.g., louvre fences).
  • Producing a large batch of interior finishing parts or fence installations.
  • Producing structures with precise color matching or in a non-standard palette.

Then, there is no alternative to large-scale production. Once again, we return to the issue of quality: any complex structure can be made faster and with better quality by such a factory.

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PRICE: IS “GARAGE” ALWAYS CHEAPER?

By and large, there is one compelling argument in favor of garage production – a more affordable price. However, a closer analysis reveals that this argument is quite debatable. In such companies, only the simplest products are cheaper, and only if you are not too demanding in terms of quality.

So what’s the catch?

  • Firstly, garage productions often “outsource” large orders and complex structures to factories. Essentially, the batch is produced under factory conditions, so the customer simply pays a small company for intermediary services.
  • Secondly, a relatively common situation is the cost of the order increasing during the process. The advertised price is based on the minimum metal thickness, basic painting, and no additional components.

WARRANTY

Warranty commitments are perhaps the key argument in favor of ordering from a large company. Firstly, garage productions often don’t offer any product warranties, and if they do, the terms are often written in such a way that virtually no warranty claims are ever accepted. From this perspective, dealing with a large manufacturer is far more advantageous. These companies, caring about their reputation, have a vested interest in quickly meeting customer warranty requirements. The experience of the “MehBud” factory confirms this.

It cannot be denied that occasionally (in very rare cases), ordering from a garage production might be advantageous. However, working with such a company is less predictable and almost always comes with unpleasant surprises regarding deadlines and quality. Working with large factories, such as “MehBud,” offers greater stability and predictability. Nevertheless, the primary argument remains the quality of the produced items.

In conclusion, buyers who value quality and guarantees should choose products from established manufacturers. Large industrial enterprises have the necessary resources to invest in high-tech equipment, rigorous quality control, and obtaining relevant certifications. While products from garage productions may be attractive in terms of price, they cannot always guarantee the same level of quality and reliability. Therefore, it is important to make an informed choice based on quality and safety requirements rather than just the price.

author
Anetzel
About the author:

Маркетолог предприятия “Мехбуд”. Квалифицированный эксперт по общению с клиентами и партнерами. Всегда готова к общению и сотрудничеству.

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