09 23 CTO WEB

Configure-To-Order (CTO) Manufacturing: Empowering Customization

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving manufacturing industry, businesses are constantly seeking ways to streamline their processes and deliver innovative products to meet the demands of their customers. One such method that has gained significant popularity is Configure-To-Order (CTO) manufacturing. In this article, we will explore what CTO products are, the benefits they provide, and the key differences between CTO and Engineer to Order (ETO) products.

Pauline cutout
September 28, 2023 geschrieben durch
Pauline Van Daele

What is Configure-To-Order manufacturing?

Configure-To-Order (CTO) refers to a manufacturing approach that enables companies to customize and assemble products based on specific customer requirements, often using pre-designed components. Configure-To-Order products are typically made up of modules or sub-assemblies that can be easily combined or modified to create the desired configuration.

When it comes to CTO products, the possibilities are endless. Customers have the power to personalize their products, ensuring that they meet their specific needs and preferences. Whether it's choosing the color, size, or functionality, CTO products offer a level of customization that is unparalleled in the world of manufacturing.

Imagine you're in the market for a new laptop. With a CTO product, you can select the processor, RAM, storage capacity, and even the graphics card to create a machine that perfectly suits your requirements. This level of customization not only allows you to optimize the performance of your device but also ensures that you're not paying for features you don't need.

Unlike traditional manufacturing, which relies on fixed assembly lines and mass production, CTO allows for on-demand configuration of products, reducing inventory costs, lead times, and waste while offering customers the flexibility to choose from a range of predefined options and features. This customization process allows manufacturers to cater to the unique needs of individual customers without compromising on product quality.

In conclusion, Configure-To-Order manufacturing offers customers the best of both worlds - the convenience and efficiency of standardized components, combined with the flexibility and personalization of customized configurations. Whether it's a laptop, a car, or a piece of furniture, CTO products empower customers to create a product that is uniquely theirs, ensuring that their needs and preferences are met to the highest standards.

Principles of CTO manufacturing

Configure-To-Order manufacturing is guided by a set of core principles. Central to CTO is the pursuit of flexibility, customization, and efficiency. Here are the key principles: 

  • Modular design: CTO begins with modular design, where products are broken down into components or modules. These modules can be easily configured and combined to meet customer requirements. This modularity simplifies the customization process.
  • Customer-centric approach: The primary focus of CTO is meeting individual customer needs. Companies engage with customers to understand their unique requirements and offer tailored solutions.
  • Inventory reduction: CTO minimizes the need for extensive inventory, as products are assembled based on actual orders. This reduces carrying costs and the risk of obsolete stock.

Benefits of CTO manufacturing

One of the key advantages of CTO manufacturing is the speed at which products can be produced. Since the components are pre-designed and standardized, manufacturers can quickly assemble the product according to the customer's specifications. This streamlined approach reduces lead times.

CTO products also perfectly meet today’s customer demands. With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, customers have become accustomed to a high level of personalization. CTO manufacturing allows businesses to address these demands by offering customizable options and ultimately fostering customer loyalty.

As mentioned before, CTO manufacturing minimizes inventory costs by producing goods based on real-time demand, reducing the need for excess stock. This results in lower carrying costs, less waste, and optimized resource allocation. This in turn also contributes positively to a company’s environmental footprint.

Additionally, CTO manufacturing often comes with a higher level of customer support. Since the manufacturer is involved in the customization process, they have a deeper understanding of the product and can provide tailored assistance if any issues arise. This personalized support ensures that customers have a seamless experience from the moment they place their order to the moment they receive their customized product.

Lastly, Configure-To-Order manufacturing also increases product quality, since rigorous quality control is integral to CTO, ensuring that all custom products meet the same high standards as traditionally manufactured goods. It provides companies with a competitive edge in dynamic markets. Manufacturers can adapt quickly to changing customer preferences and market demands, remaining relevant and responsive.

These benefits make CTO an attractive strategy for businesses across various industries.

Disadvantages of CTO manufacturing

While Configure-To-Order presents numerous advantages, it is not without its drawbacks. Some notable disadvantages are:

  • Increased complexity in managing a wide array of customizable options
  • Increased chances of longer lead times
  • Need for sophisticated software systems to track complex configurations
  • Longer learning curve for staff

Difference with Engineer-To-Order (ETO)

While they may sound similar, there are some important distinctions between Configure-To-Order (CTO) and Engineer-To-Order (ETO). While CTO products are predesigned and standardized components, ETO products are designed, engineered, and manufactured from scratch based on specific requirements.

With Engineer-To-Order manufacturing, every product is unique and typically involves extensive custom engineering and design work. The manufacturing process requires close collaboration between the manufacturer and the customer to ensure the final product meets all specifications.

ETO is therefore highly customizable, but often time-consuming and costly. In contrast, CTO products offer customization within predefined options. The modular design of CTO enables quicker turnaround times and greater scalability compared to ETO manufacturing.

CTO manufacturing in practice

Configure-To-Order manufacturing is a versatile and responsive strategy, aligning production closely with customer needs. Here’s a glimpse into how it works:

CTO begins with a foundation of pre-designed components or modules. Customers can then select from a menu of options and configurations to tailor the product.

Once an order is received, the selected components are assembled in a streamlined and efficient process. This on-demand assembly ensures that the product precisely matches the customer’s requirements while minimizing excess inventory and associated carrying costs.

CTO’s adaptability extends to various industries. Here are some examples:

  • Laptops and computers: Many computer manufacturers offer CTO options, allowing customers to select components like processors, RAM, and storage to customize their devices.
  • Automobiles: Car manufacturers provide CTO options for selecting vehicle models, colors, interiors, and additional features to create a personalized car.
  • Industrial machinery: Complex machinery can be configured with specific tooling, control systems, and capabilities to suit unique production requirements.
  • Medical equipment: Medical device manufacturers offer CTO options for equipment like MRI machines, where configurations need to be tailored to a healthcare facility.
  • HVAC systems: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can be configured for specific building sizes and usage requirements.

What Hive CPQ can do for your Configure-To-Order manufacturing

Hive Configure Price Quote (CPQ) can help you streamline your Configure-To-Order manufacturing processes. It guides sales reps, distributors, and end customers through product configuration, by creating a menu of customizable options so users can easily select the features, components, and specifications they desire. This not only enhances the customer experiences but also minimizes the risk of errors in product configuration. 

Additionally, Hive CPQ provides real-time pricing and cost calculations as customers make their selections, enabling transparent and accurate quoting. Hive CPQ also integrates with inventory and production systems, enabling manufacturers to manage resources efficiently, reduce excess inventory, and align production schedules with actual demand.


In conclusion, Configure to Order (CTO) manufacturing is a powerful approach for manufacturers to meet the demands of customers in a competitive marketplace. By offering flexible customization options, businesses can provide tailored solutions while maintaining cost-effective production. Whether in the tech industry, furniture manufacturing, or any other sector, CTO products have become the go-to choice for those looking to strike the perfect balance between customization and efficiency in meeting customer needs.

Want to know more about how Hive CPQ can help you with your CTO manufacturing processes?

Related articles

Time is money: the importance of time efficiency
03 22 Time is money web
März 28, 2022 geschrieben durch
Sales optimalisation

Time is money: the importance of time efficiency

“Time is money”, the famous words from Benjamin Franklin prove that time efficiency was even in 1748 a trending topic. Today, the pressure is higher than ever to not waste any time, which has in turn influenced customer behavior. Customers today are demanding a better and faster buying experience. How can you handle this growing difficulty as a company?

read more
Tips for a successful CPQ rollout
12 22 CPQ Rollout web
Dezember 14, 2022 geschrieben durch
CPQ software

Tips for a successful CPQ rollout

CPQ or Configure Price Quote software helps companies with complex products to simplify and accelerate their sales process. It is a highly beneficial solution, so the implementation of a CPQ is a very exciting, yet also incredibly challenging process. In this month’s article, we have collected our best tips and tricks on how to create a smooth implementation process for your CPQ.

read more
5 B2B strategies to sell more in 2021
11 20 B2 B Strategies sales web
November 22, 2020 geschrieben durch
Sales optimalisation

5 B2B strategies to sell more in 2021

We are slowly but surely reaching the end of 2020, so it’s time to look back and look ahead! This year was not what anyone expected, but suffice to say it was a life changing year. Every aspect of our lives seems to be different, which means that customers will have a changed behavior too. How do you anticipate these changes as a sales representative? Let’s look at some of the trends we can expect in 2021 for B2B Sales in 5 fitting strategies.

read more