With delivery channels for most businesses now spanning the globe thanks to the advent of Internet retail, costs for shipping products are a rather exponential price to swallow into the price of a product. The only other option is to place that cost onto the consumer.
However, one company may have found a way to help alleviate the problem whilst also pleasing some of their customers who wish to sell on their products through their own stores.
AtFab, a tiny two-person furniture startup from Lexington, Kentucky, is pioneering a new model known as "distributed manufacturing." This new model allows for their furniture to be easily distributed across the world via furniture resellers or mass-market stockists.
They're giving away the plans for their chairs, tables and stools as "cut files" to be used with CNC routers – essentially a device capable of cutting out materials to predetermined designs in three dimensions.
They're standard equipment in most machine shops, so small manufacturers can easily make AtFAB's designs or get them cut at nearby places and sell them onto others without having to pony up the cost for shipping to their store. It also allows them to get it cut from almost any material durable enough.
This model means that AtFAB can focus on selling their furniture and designing special products that set them apart from the competition.
"It's like how you give away a recipe, but people still go to your restaurant," says Anne Filson, co-founder of AtFAB. "We feel the [do-it-yourself person] is always going to want to be curious and make our furniture themselves, while a consumer may have the aspiration to own our furniture, but may not have the luxury of the time or resources to do it."
The idea, once the company gets set up properly and has their name out there enough, means that they can then sell furniture directly to customers but reduce costs by sending plans to a consumers nearest manufacturing plant to get it cut and sent out to the customer.
They also pushed their designs out amongst the community for a year before they began to sell them, meaning that hobbyists fell in love with their designs early on giving their brand a boost in the furniture space.
This is only a side project for Filson and co-founder Gary Rohrbacher, who are currently Kickstarting their venture, but it's a sign of where the future of distribution and manufacturing could go if the 3D printer becomes far more commonplace moving forward.
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