Optimizing Welding Cells for High Mix Low Volume Manufacturing

“Just in Time” sign for high mix low volume manufacturing

All manufacturing operations strive to ensure their supply meets user demand. However, demand volume is not constant, and neither is a manufacturing strategy for satisfying that demand. Most industrial production operations can be classified broadly as either low or high volume. For high-volume operations, the goals are to build as many products as possible as fast as possible and at the lowest cost. Doing so can ensure that adequate supply is always available to meet demand. 

Low-volume production, on the other hand, is more nuanced. Here, the goal is to fulfill demand “just in time” without maintaining excessive and potentially unusable products. Low-volume manufacturing often applies to custom products that may be complex or require multiple components to build. When this is the case, it is known as high mix low volume manufacturing; for many applications, such as specialized high-spec assembly projects, this is the preferred strategy due to its flexibility, speed, and cost-efficiency.  

What Is High Mix Low Volume Manufacturing?

Rather than large quantities of comparatively simpler devices, many applications focus on high-end, specialized, or custom products. For example, life-sustaining invasive medical devices are typically produced in small batches by manufacturers that employ high mix low volume manufacturing processes that provide the following benefits. 

Advantages of High Mix Low Volume (HMLV) Manufacturing 

  • Flexibility
    Perhaps the greatest advantage of HMLV manufacturing is that it allows manufacturers to switch set-ups or make process changes quickly so that various products can be fabricated.
  • Reduced Turnaround Times
    HMLV manufacturing strategies allow manufacturers to construct multiple product types simultaneously to increase productivity.
  • Lower Costs
    HMLV processes lower overhead costs as manufacturers acquire only the necessary quantity of materials and parts. Likewise, precision and accuracy reduce rework, repairs, and waste.

To realize these advantages, HMLV manufacturers must incorporate or exhibit the following essentials.

Requirements for High Mix Low Volume Manufacturing

  • Effective Communication
    All parametric modifications must be conveyed clearly, and change orders should be communicated to the process equipment quickly to maximize efficiency.
  • Agile Processing
    In concert with on-time data transfer, the ability to modify process objectives, parts, and operations is necessary. Consequently, the degree of process agility helps determine HMLV process efficiency. 
  • Low Error or High Yield Rate
    The manufacturing process must be precise and produce minimal errors that necessitate repairs or replacements. Therefore, extremely high yield rates are required.

Obviously, HMLV manufacturing processes offer significant advantages. However, the challenge of meeting the requirements described above can be an obstacle for welding projects unless manufacturers employ advanced technologies like robotics.

Welding Technology for HMLV Manufacturing

The use of robots for welding is not new. Automobile assembly lines have been utilizing robots for over half a century. Today, virtually all production, including welding, embraces automation to achieve the goals of faster, lower-cost manufacturing that aligns with the aspirations of Industry 4.0. HMLV manufacturing is a prime example of this philosophy. By implementing orbital welding, the preferred process for metal assembly automation, manufacturers can implement HMLV and leverage the consistency and precision afforded by robots to applications across most industries.

Achieving HMLV Manufacturing for Orbital Welding Cells

  • Accurate Wield Technique
    HMLV manufacturing requires precision. For orbital welding, the most precise technique is GTAW. By employing programmable robot arms and offline programming, as available from Octopuz, such precision is attainable.
  • Data Acquisition and Utilization
    In order to optimize the use of robotic welding cells—including the robot(s), welding equipment, and power source—weld parameters and imagery are necessary, as they allow operators to analyze and adjust controls, as well as update coding that may be applied to tandem cells.
  • Exchangeable Parts and Materials
    Orbital welding cells must be flexible enough to allow materials and parts, such as feed wires and electrodes, to be switched without sacrificing quality or precision.

With the capabilities listed above, HMLV manufacturing promises to extend the range of applications for robotics-based orbital welding.


Arc Machines, Inc., since its founding by former NASA engineers in 1976, has been an industry leader in producing high-quality and high-tech equipment and advancing the scope of welding applications. Today this includes industry leading orbital welding equipment and materials, as well as software-based processing that supports high mix low volume manufacturing projects.  For inquiries regarding products, contact sales@arcmachines.com. For service inquiries, contact service@arcmachines.com. Arc Machines welcomes the opportunity to discuss your specific needs. Contact us to arrange a meeting.