Small series

A small series is a serial production in small volumes and is therefore in contrast to single-unit production, medium batch production and large-scale production. While it is relatively easy to make a distinction from single-unit production – in general more than three unit is not considered single-unit production – it is much harder to distinguish between medium batch and large-scale production. Since a general rule by numbers is hard to apply, a distinction between different industry sectors is more practical.

Small series can be used to carry out the technical testing under real operating conditions and to test the market acceptance. A good example of this is the production of electric and fuel cell vehicles in small series, which is currently pushed by several automobile manufacturers. Profitability is not the focus here, the manufacturers often operate without covering all costs. It does not, however, need to be a bad investment, if valuable results can be gained during day-to-day operations, which lead to product improvements before moving to mass production. Small series production can thus assist in avoiding expensive failures.

Another application field is the production of unique and limited editions. They are useful to provide offers of exclusivity to valuable clients, who often are opinion leader in that product segment. This can assist in improving the brand perception when the features of the small series allow an image transfer on the large-scale products of the same company. The small series can directly lead to additional sales if for example the clients’ passion for collectors items can be aroused.

Small series can mainly be found in niche markets. These are markets where the sales expectations do not justify large-scale production. This is the area for niche providers, who have specialised in small series.