Make vs. Buy: The Real Cost of Making it Yourself

In modern manufacturing, where efficiency is the name of the game, conveyance is often one of the primary strategies decision-makers utilize to maximize production. Once a new conveyance strategy is decided, another decision presents itself: should we manufacture our own conveyors or buy them from established sources? While some companies choose to make their own conveyors, many entrust their shop automation to trusted conveyance suppliers with experience and an understanding of the application and requirements for it to exceed.

Production Capacity

Production capacity centers on both time and space.


As simple as it sounds, time is perhaps the most significant factor that is miscalculated in the decision-making process. Although you are already paying your employees, the time spent on designing, building, and testing a conveyor is time lost that they could be improving upon, expanding, and manufacturing your current product line. Before the conveyor is even built, time is taken in designing, researching, modeling, creating BOMs, and procuring components. Only then can production staff begin building, testing, and debugging the conveyor to ensure it performs as needed.

As many businesses continue to see both growth and scarcity of engineering resources, the time current employees spend away from your core product comes straight out of your bottom line.


In addition to time, production capacity also includes space. In most facilities, space is at a premium, so creating and maintaining an area to develop, manufacture, and test a conveyor takes away from your main production output, not to mention the space required for storing excess components and spare parts to support the conveyors once they are up and running.

Hidden Expenses

Administrative Costs

Accounting for hidden expenses, such as administrative costs is critical for any project. Administrative costs can increase from administering a purchase order for each conveyor component to receiving and processing the parts into inventory. In addition, there are shipping and logistical expenses to receive the required materials, not to mention the time to manage, move, and inventory all of these materials. These costs can add up quickly.

Design Changes

Changes can also contribute to hidden expenses. Starting with the design phase, changes can stem from vendor lead times and component changes to the product learning curve. In the manufacturing and installation process, design flaws, part problems, building obstacles, and other unforeseen issues all contribute to last-minute changes. All of which result in delays and increased costs.


A money-saving feature you would receive when buying a conveyor is a warranty. A good warranty can relieve the stress of wondering if you’re purchasing a reliable product. It’s a guarantee from the manufacturer that the product is of good quality and construction. If it contains any manufacturing defects, a warranty provides you the right to ask the manufacturer to deal with them at no cost.

Conversely, opting to manufacture a conveyor in-house would place the onus squarely on your shoulders to address any potential defects or issues that could arise once the system is operational. This could result in spending precious time and resources to rectify these problems. After production, ongoing maintenance of the self-made conveyor is more expensive than the upfront investment of purchasing a conveyor from a reputable manufacturer.

Core Strengths Conveyor Manufacturers Offer

Most manufacturing companies have engineers who can design a variety of components as needed, but customized precision conveyors are not typically a core strength. Dedicated conveyor manufacturers have built their business around conveyance and have the expertise to create quality conveyor systems for a wide range of applications.

Knowledge & Experience

Companies specializing in precision conveyors have accumulated knowledge and experience working with conveyors designed for a wide range of products. These specialized companies have experience considering the environment and application to design and build efficient conveyance systems that meet the exact needs of a client’s operation.

Moreover, specialized conveyor manufacturers have invested time and money in testing conveyor systems in different scenarios. They can predict the issues that will come with various environments and uses. These companies are well versed with the latest technologies, from belting and gears to drives and controls. They have worked with component suppliers or make parts in-house to get the best volume pricing and ensure high-quality components. Reputable conveyor manufacturers have already completed the necessary upfront work to build conveyors and are ready to design and build conveyors to meet your exact needs.


The quality of the conveyor can also directly impact the quality of your product. A smooth-running conveyor maintains high energy efficiency and can affect the process from start to finish. Scratched packaging, dented products, and damaged materials can reduce the saleable product from your manufacturing line and cost you money. A dependable conveyor fitted to an application will get your product from point A to point B safely and efficiently.

Service & Maintenance

Consider the service and support needed with installed conveyors. Conveyor manufacturers have drawings, manuals, spare parts lists, and required maintenance information ready to be accessed.

In general, in-house fabrication and maintenance of a conveyor is assigned to one employee who designs it for an exact application. If that person leaves, finding someone who can step in with the required knowledge to design and service the conveyors properly can be challenging. This means training and documentation are usually limited, plus re-training can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming. Having a dependable conveyor supplier only a phone call away can significantly reduce future downtimes like these.

Conveyor manufacturers employ maintenance technicians to train your staff on day-to-day maintenance of the system, as well as provide on-going support during the installation and the post installation process to service and repair your conveyors as needed.


Repeatability is also very dependent on documentation. From routine maintenance to installation instructions, spare parts lists, and troubleshooting, proper documentation can save time and effort. When building in-house, the conveyor will often undergo several modifications during the design and manufacturing. If documentation is created ahead of time, it might only sometimes be updated through the many iterations of the new conveyor as it moves through testing and into the final installation.

Replacement Parts

With any conveyor, replacement parts are necessary, and how quickly you can obtain these parts can be vital to keeping your line up and running. Conveyors made in-house will most likely have parts purchased from various suppliers. If those suppliers discontinue making the parts needed or even go out of business, you could be left scrambling to get the conveyors back in action.

Conveyor manufacturers, on the other hand, stay ahead of the curve with changes in components and can react quickly to your service needs. They are prepared for emergencies and can sometimes ship replacement parts within as little as a day. This can save time and the hassle of re-engineering the product internally. They can also provide preventative maintenance training and parts auditing programs to ensure you’re ready if issues arise.

Let Dorner help you decide!

Whether you make a conveyor in-house or buy it from a conveyor manufacturer, inevitable costs can impact the company’s overall bottom line and have lasting effects on the production and quality of your core product. Ultimately, the decision to make or buy boils down to what’s in the best interest of your company.

The Benefits of Working with Dorner

Sanitary Designs & Industry Ready Systems: Our conveyors are engineered to follow regulations and standards for your application. We have a variety of models that are CE/ROHS Compliant, BISSC Certified, and cleanroom-rated.

Our AquaPruf Ultimate sanitary stainless-steel conveyor is the only USDA and 3A-certified conveyor on the market. With hygienic and easy cleaning features such as tip-up tails, frame cut-outs, and belt lifters, the AquaGard series offers efficiency and quality for raw meat and ready-to-eat food producers.

Repeatability: We focus on accurate repeatability in conveying products and materials. Our conveyors are built with v-guiding, custom-designed spindles, and best-in-class product transfers to ensure precise movement of your product throughout the manufacturing process.

Brand: Dorner conveyors are recognized throughout the industry as the premier low-profile, high-precision conveyance systems. We pride ourselves in setting the standard in the conveyor industry with high-quality products built to exact standards, with lean manufacturing practices.

Breadth: With the broadest offering on the market and the ability to customize and tailor fit solutions, we have a solution for any application.

Industry’s Best Online Configurator: Our comprehensive online configurator allows you to design simple or complex conveyors that meet your needs in minutes. This industry-leading tool delivers a complete 3D CAD assembly model for instant validation of fit and easy quoting.

Fast Shipping: With a commitment to fast shipping, we pride ourselves in offering the industry’s best lead times and can process, build, and ship your conveyor in as little as ten days.

Experience: With nearly 60 years of experience, you can depend on Dorner to provide reliable conveyors, complete support, and replacement parts for all your needs now and in the future.

10-Year Warranty: With our 10-year warranty, you can rest assured that your conveyor will be supported from installation.

Complete Support: Dorner offers comprehensive support from start to finish. Our professional customer service representatives, drafters, engineers, installers, and service managers are ready to assist you.

From our sales and support team to our DTools online conveyor configurator, we have the solutions to help simplify your conveyor decision!

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