Assemble to Order (ATO) is a production and inventory management strategy where products are partially assembled in advance, and the final assembly is completed based on customer orders. This approach allows companies to balance the advantages of mass production with the flexibility to accommodate varying customer requirements.

Key features of Assemble to Order (ATO) include:

1. **Partial Pre-Assembly:** In the ATO model, certain components or sub-assemblies are pre-manufactured and kept in inventory. These pre-assembled components are common to multiple product configurations.

2. **Final Assembly Based on Customer Orders:** The final assembly of the product is completed only after receiving a customer order. This allows for customization and configuration based on the specific requirements of each order.

3. **Configuration Options:** ATO systems often involve configurable products with different features, options, or variations. Customers can choose from a set of predefined configurations or options when placing an order.

4. **Reduced Lead Time:** By pre-assembling common components and waiting until a customer order is received to complete the final assembly, companies can reduce overall lead times and improve responsiveness to customer demands.

5. **Cost Efficiency:** ATO can contribute to cost efficiency by avoiding the need for extensive finished goods inventory. Companies can keep a smaller inventory of common components and assemble the final product based on actual demand.

6. **Flexibility:** ATO provides greater flexibility in responding to changes in customer preferences or market demands. It allows companies to introduce new product variants or modifications without major disruptions to the production process.

7. **Supply Chain Management:** Effective supply chain management is crucial in ATO systems. Companies need to ensure a steady supply of pre-assembled components and manage inventory levels to meet customer demand without overstocking.

8. **Information Systems:** ATO systems often rely on sophisticated information systems to manage orders, track inventory levels, and coordinate the production process. These systems help ensure that the correct components are available for final assembly.

9. **Examples:** ATO is commonly used in industries where products have customizable features, such as computer manufacturing, automotive, and certain consumer electronics. For example, a computer manufacturer might pre-assemble common components like processors, memory, and hard drives, and then assemble the final computer based on a customer’s choice of specifications.

While ATO offers benefits in terms of flexibility and responsiveness, it requires effective coordination between production, inventory management, and order fulfillment processes. Companies adopting the ATO strategy need to carefully plan and manage their supply chain to ensure the timely delivery of customized products to customers.