Category General, Logistics, Services
Quality control kitting assembly

Kitting and Assembly can be one of the easiest ways to plug-in resilience and agility into a modern OEM's production line. UK manufacturers are used to navigating a complex web of supply chain challenges, but in today's fast-changing and constantly morphing modern manufacturing landscape, adaptability and resilience are no longer just buzzwords, they are essential traits for survival and success. Kitting and assembly can be overlooked at offering additional capability in this area.

Managing supply is on hard-mode in 2024

With the myriad of components to manage the provision of — from the humblest rivet to the most complex sensors and semi-conductors — the supply chain puzzle has always been on hard-mode rather than the 25-piece beginner set. Utilising a trusted kitting and assembly service can be a cheat code in completing this jigsaw. A service that smooths out and mitigates some of the harsher impacts having to be worked around in our current manufacturing environment.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and tensions in the Middle East have disrupted energy supplies and key material exports, contributing to price volatility and shortages. These global issues have compounded existing raw material shortages, particularly affecting semiconductors, rare earth elements, and cross-border trade crucial for many OEMs.

Global economic fluctuations, exacerbated by ongoing geopolitical tensions, have led to unpredictable costs and availability of raw materials. This — along with the lingering and still unfolding effects of Brexit — continue to cause friction, with customs procedures and regulatory obstacles still impacting the smooth flow of components and materials.

Transportation post-pandemic remains a significant hurdle, with shipping costs fluctuating wildly and port congestions causing delays. The push for greener logistics has added yet more complexity, as OEMs strive to balance efficiency with sustainability goals. Regulations in this area are increasing, compliance means higher bars are being set to leap over for provisioning sustainable supplies.

These disruptions have real, tangible impacts on day-to-day operations. Production lines face increased threats to stoppage or slowdown due to delivery-delayed or out-of-stock components. Just-in-time manufacturing systems, once hailed for their efficiency, now expose vulnerabilities when supplies are unreliable. While global inflation, and UK inflation in particular, appears to be calming after the Pandemic spikes, OEMs are grappling with increased costs across the board - from raw materials to transportation and labour.

The ripple effect of these challenges extends beyond the factory floor. Delayed production leads to longer lead times for customers, potentially damaging long-standing relationships. The inability to meet demand promptly opens the door for competitors, especially those with more resilient supply chains. Customer satisfaction takes a hit as products become more expensive or delayed, communicating and managing these issues up- and down-stream the supply chain is a challenge.

There's no easy panacea to these challenges, but kitting and assembly services are part of the savvy OEMs arsenal to deploy against them.

Plug-in resilience with kitting and assembly applied to your production line

Kitting and assembly are two strategic processes that significantly enhance manufacturing efficiency and resilience for OEMs. Kitting is a sophisticated logistics service involving the meticulous selection, packaging, and verification of a range of components and parts — which may include both specialised and generic items — into a single product unit. These carefully curated kits are designed to be 'ready-to-assemble', allowing them to be ordered and managed as a single Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). This streamlines Bill of Materials (BOM) requests and substantially reduces administrative overhead.

Sub-assembly, on the other hand, involves the pre-fabrication of parts (Acorn conduct this off-site at our ISO-certified workspace, and deliver to our OEM clients as necessary to their production schedule). This process allows for the creation of complex components in dedicated production cells, separate from the main production line. These assembled parts are not only pre-fabricated but also undergo rigorous pre-testing and quality assurance processes. This ensures a faster and more reliable installation when they are integrated into the main manufacturing assembly process by the manufacturer's own highly skilled personnel.

For OEMs, the implementation of kitting and sub-assembly offers numerous strategic advantages:


Inventory optimisation

Kitting consolidates multiple SKUs into a single unit, significantly simplifying inventory management and reducing storage requirements.


Operational efficiency

Both kitting and sub-assembly accelerate production processes by reducing the time spent on component gathering and basic assembly tasks.


Quality assurance

Pre-tested sub-assemblies ensure higher reliability and reduce the likelihood of defects being discovered late in the production process.


Production flexibility

Kitting allows for rapid adaptation to changes in production requirements without necessitating major overhaul of inventory.


Error reduction

The quality-assurance testing that goes into comprehensive kitting minimises the risk of missing or incorrect parts.


Resource focus

Through the outsourcing of certain assembly tasks, OEMs are able to focus their trained workforce on core competencies and laser-focus on final assembly processes.

Supply chain resilience: These processes can act as buffers against supply chain disruptions, providing a level of insulation from component shortages or delivery delays.

Through the integration of a kitting and assembly service into their operation, an OEM can create a more agile, efficient, and reliable production ecosystem. These strategies not only streamline current processes but also build in the flexibility and resilience necessary to adapt to future manufacturing challenges and opportunities. (You can read about more of the key benefits in our earlier article here: Key benefits of kitting and assembly for manufacturers.)

Making It Happen: Your Roadmap to Implementation

Implementing kitting and sub-assembly services is about creating tangible value and leveraging opportunities in the production and supply chain ecosystem. A thorough audit of current operations should make an assessment of where the most impact can be — or needs to be — made. Where can assembly outsourcing free up resources or improve efficiency? Look for bottlenecks in the manufacturing production line that kitting could alleviate.

Finding sweet spots is crucial. Analysis of the full bill of materials and production processes can reveal which components or assembly processes consistently cause delays or quality issues. These are prime candidates for kitting or outsourced sub-assembly.

As a provider of trusted supply chain services here at Acorn, we preach that partner selection makes or breaks implementation. Trust, communication and service experience at the top level is essential. A track record in implementing for clients in and and around the relevant sector to your company is an indicator of capacity and expertise. Ensure a service partner has robust quality control processes and the appropriate technologies to integrate with your systems.

Don't underestimate the importance of on-boarding and change management. The integration process, and on-boarding processes between the relevant teams is essential for success. Communicating the benefits clearly to all stakeholders alongside the relevant training is key to getting buy-in on all sides and the effective introduction and integration of kitting and assembly services into the overall production process.

What's next for Kitting and Assembly?

Smart manufacturing means the constant updating of the scope and features of services like kitting and sub-assembly as new digital-enabled features upgrade supply chain operations. AI and machine learning are poised to transform kitting processes, enabling the application of predictive demand forecasting and real-time optimisation of kit configurations. This will lead to a new level of efficiency and waste reduction.

3D printing technology is opening new possibilities for assembly on demand. It promises to reduce lead times dramatically and enable mass customisation at scale, this is potentially revolutionary for industries with complex, low-volume parts.

Blockchain technology is set to enhance traceability and transparency which will impact the kitting and sub-assembly process. This will be crucial for industries with strict regulatory requirements and those seeking to build trust through supply chain visibility.

Sustainability is becoming a key focus. Green kitting practices, such as using biodegradable packaging materials and optimising kit sizes to reduce transportation emissions, are gaining traction. Companies are also exploring circular economy models, where kits are designed for easy disassembly and component reuse.

Adding smart manufacturing and smart supply chain services into a manufacturer's resiliency framework can be a game-changer. Those who can successfully integrate these technologies and practices will gain a significant competitive edge in terms of efficiency, flexibility, and sustainability.

Want to guard against the inevitable supply chain disruptions? Explore how kitting and assembly can mitigate these for your operations.

Learn more about our kitting and assembly services

Acorn has experience in integrating kitting and assembly operations into high value, high technology production lines for top OEMs.

Find out more about how these services can help you.

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