Mass production

Mass production

Overview
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly line
Assembly line
An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

s. The concepts of mass production are applied to various kinds of products, from fluids and particulates handled in bulk (such as food, fuel, chemicals, and mined minerals) to discrete solid parts (such as fasteners) to assemblies of such parts (such as household appliances and automobiles).

The term mass production was defined in a 1926 article in the Encyclopedia Britannica supplement that was written based on correspondence with Ford Motor Co.
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Encyclopedia
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly line
Assembly line
An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

s. The concepts of mass production are applied to various kinds of products, from fluids and particulates handled in bulk (such as food, fuel, chemicals, and mined minerals) to discrete solid parts (such as fasteners) to assemblies of such parts (such as household appliances and automobiles).

The term mass production was defined in a 1926 article in the Encyclopedia Britannica supplement that was written based on correspondence with Ford Motor Co. The New York Times used the term in the title of an article that appeared before publication of the Britannica article. It was also referenced by Sir Chiozza Money, the Fabian banker, politician and author, writing in the London Observer in 1919, comparing the efficiency of mass-production techniques as used in America with British practice.

Overview


Mass Production involves making many copies of products, very quickly, using assembly line techniques to send partially complete products to workers who each work on an individual step, rather than making a worker making a whole product from start to finish.

Mass production of fluid matter typically involves pipes with centrifugal pump
Centrifugal pump
A centrifugal pump is a rotodynamic pump that uses a rotating impeller to create flow by the addition of energy to a fluid. Centrifugal pumps are commonly used to move liquids through piping...

s or screw conveyor
Screw conveyor
A screw conveyor or auger conveyor is a mechanism that uses a rotating helical screw blade, called a "flighting", usually within a tube, to move liquid or granular materials. They are used in many bulk handling industries...

s (augers) to transfer raw materials or partially complete product between vessels. Fluid flow processes such as oil refining and bulk materials such as wood chips and pulp are automated using a system of process control
Process control
Process control is a statistics and engineering discipline that deals with architectures, mechanisms and algorithms for maintaining the output of a specific process within a desired range...

 which uses various instruments to measure variables such as temperature, pressure, volumetric and level, providing feedback to a controller that holds a setpoint.

Bulk materials such as coal, ores, grains and wood chips are handled by belt, chain, slat, pneumatic or screw
Screw conveyor
A screw conveyor or auger conveyor is a mechanism that uses a rotating helical screw blade, called a "flighting", usually within a tube, to move liquid or granular materials. They are used in many bulk handling industries...

 conveyors, bucket elevator
Bucket elevator
A bucket elevator, also called a grain leg, is a mechanism for hauling flowable bulk materials vertically.It consists of:# Buckets to contain the material;# A belt to carry the buckets and transmit the pull;...

s and mobile equipment such as front-end loaders
Loader (equipment)
A loader is a heavy equipment machine often used in construction, primarily used to load material into or onto another type of machinery .-Heavy equipment front loaders:A loader A loader is a heavy equipment machine often used in construction, primarily used to load material (such as asphalt,...

. Materials on pallets are handled with forklifts. Also used for handling heavy items like reels of paper, steel or machinery are electric overhead cranes, sometimes called bridge cranes because they span large factory bays.

Mass production is capital intensive
Capital intensity
Capital intensity is the term in economics for the amount of fixed or real capital present in relation to other factors of production, especially labor...

 and energy intensive, as it uses a high proportion of machinery and energy in relation to workers. It is also usually automated
Automation
Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to reduce the need for human work in the production of goods and services. In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization...

 while total expenditure per unit of product is decreased. However, the machinery that is needed to set up a mass production line (such as robot
Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s and machine press
Machine press
A machine press, commonly shortened to press, is a machine tool that changes the shape of a workpiece.-Servomechanism:A servomechanism press, also known as a servo press or a electro press, is a press driven by an AC servo motor. The torque produced is converted to a linear force via a ball screw....

es) is so expensive that there must be some assurance that the product is to be successful to attain profits.

One of the descriptions of mass production is that "that stalkers built this country", which means that the worker using the craftsmanship is in the workbench
Workbench
A workbench is sturdy table at which manual work is done. They range from simple flat surfaces to very complex designs that may be considered tools in themselves. Workbenches vary in size from tiny jewelers benches to the huge benches used by staircase makers...

 itself" (not the training of the worker). Rather than having a skilled worker were jigs
Jig (tool)
In metalworking and woodworking, a jig is a type of tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool. A jig's primary purpose is to provide repeatability, accuracy, and interchangeability in the manufacturing of products. A jig is often confused with a fixture; a fixture holds the...

 ready at hand to ensure that the part was made to fit this set-up. It had already been checked that the finished part would be to specifications to fit all the other finished parts—and it would be made more quickly, with no time spent on finishing the parts to fit one another. Later, once computerized control came about (for example, CNC), jigs were obviated, but it remained true that the skill (or knowledge) was built into the tool (or process, or documentation) rather than residing in the cell, or each fractionating column
Fractionating column
A fractionating column or fractionation column is an essential item used in the distillation of liquid mixtures so as to separate the mixture into its component parts, or fractions, based on the differences in their volatilities...

) is different (fine-tuned to its task).

History


Prerequisites of mass production were interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

, machine tools and power
Power (physics)
In physics, power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. For example, the rate at which a light bulb transforms electrical energy into heat and light is measured in watts—the more wattage, the more power, or equivalently the more electrical energy is used per unit...

, especially in the form of electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

.

Some of the organizational management concepts needed to create 20th-century mass production, such as scientific management
Scientific management
Scientific management, also called Taylorism, was a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management...

, had been pioneered by other engineers (most of whom are not famous, but Frederick Winslow Taylor
Frederick Winslow Taylor
Frederick Winslow Taylor was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He is regarded as the father of scientific management and was one of the first management consultants...

 is one of the well-known ones), whose work would later be synthesized into fields such as industrial engineering
Industrial engineering
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

, manufacturing engineering
Manufacturing engineering
Manufacturing engineering is a field dealing with different manufacturing practices and the research and development of processes, machines and equipment.-Overview:...

, operations research
Operations research
Operations research is an interdisciplinary mathematical science that focuses on the effective use of technology by organizations...

, and management consultancy. Henry Ford downplayed the role of Taylorism in the development of mass production at his company. However, Ford management performed time studies and experiments to mechanize their factory processes, focusing on minimizing worker movements. The difference is that while Taylor focused on efficiency of the worker, Ford used machines, thoughtfully arranged, wherever possible to substitute for labor.

The United States Department of War
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 sponsored the development of interchangeable parts for guns produced at the arsenals at Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield is the most populous city in Western New England, and the seat of Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers; the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern...

 and Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. In many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry" with an apostrophe....

, Virginia (now West Virginia) in the early decades of the 19th century, finally achieving reliable interchangeability by about 1850. This period coincided with the development of machine tools, with the armories designing and building many of their own. Some of the methods employed were a system of gauges for checking dimensions of the various parts and jigs
Jig (tool)
In metalworking and woodworking, a jig is a type of tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool. A jig's primary purpose is to provide repeatability, accuracy, and interchangeability in the manufacturing of products. A jig is often confused with a fixture; a fixture holds the...

 and fixture
Fixture (tool)
A fixture is a work-holding or support device used in the manufacturing industry. What makes a fixture unique is that each one is built to fit a particular part or shape. The main purpose of a fixture is to locate and in some cases hold a workpiece during either a machining operation or some...

s for guiding the machine tools and properly holding and aligning the work pieces. This system came to be known as armory practice or the American system of manufacturing
American system of manufacturing
The American system of manufacturing was a set of manufacturing methods that evolved in the 19th century. It involved semi-skilled labor using machine tools and jigs to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance, which could be assembled with a minimum of time...

, which spread throughout New England aided by skilled mechanics from the armories who were instrumental in transferring the technology to the sewing machines manufacturers and other industries such as machine tools, harvesting machines and bicycles. Singer Manufacturing Co.
Singer Corporation
Singer Corporation is a manufacturer of sewing machines, first established as I.M. Singer & Co. in 1851 by Isaac Merritt Singer with New York lawyer Edward Clark. Best known for its sewing machines, it was renamed Singer Manufacturing Company in 1865, then The Singer Company in 1963. It is...

, at one time the largest sewing machine manufacturer, did not achieve interchangeable parts until the late 1880s, around the same time Cyrus McCormick
Cyrus McCormick
Cyrus Hall McCormick, Sr. was an American inventor and founder of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which became part of International Harvester Company in 1902.He and many members of the McCormick family became prominent Chicagoans....

 adopted modern manufacturing practices in making harvesting machines
Reaper
A reaper is a person or machine that reaps crops at harvest, when they are ripe.-Hand reaping:Hand reaping is done by various means, including plucking the ears of grains directly by hand, cutting the grain stalks with a sickle, cutting them with a scythe, or with a later type of scythe called a...

.

Mass production benefited from the development of materials such as inexpensive steel, high strength steel and plastics. Machining of metals was greatly enhanced with high speed steel
High speed steel
High speed steelMost copyeditors today would tend to choose to style the unit adjective high-speed with a hyphen, rendering the full term as high-speed steel, and this styling is not uncommon . However, it is true that in the metalworking industries the styling high speed steel is long-established...

 and later very hard materials such as tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide is an inorganic chemical compound containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. Colloquially, tungsten carbide is often simply called carbide. In its most basic form, it is a fine gray powder, but it can be pressed and formed into shapes for use in industrial machinery,...

 for cutting edges. Fabrication using steel components was aided by the development of electric welding and stamped steel parts, both which appeared in industry in about 1890. Plastics such as polyethylene
Polyethylene
Polyethylene or polythene is the most widely used plastic, with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons...

, polystyrene
Polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

 and polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 (PVC) can be easily formed into shapes by extrusion
Plastics extrusion
Plastics extrusion is a high volume manufacturing process in which raw plastic material is melted and formed into a continuous profile. Extrusion produces items such as pipe/tubing, weather stripping, fence, deck railing, window frames, adhesive tape and wire insulation.-Process:In the extrusion of...

, blow molding
Blow molding
Blow molding is a manufacturing process by which hollow plastic parts are formed. In general, there are three main types of blow molding: extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, and stretch blow molding. The blow molding process begins with melting down the plastic and forming it into a...

 or injection molding
Injection molding
Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts from both thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic materials. Material is fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity...

, resulting in very low cost manufacture of consumer products, plastic piping, containers and parts.

Factory electrification


Electrification of factories began very gradually in the 1890s after the introduction of a practical DC motor
DC motor
A DC motor is an electric motor that runs on direct current electricity.-Brush:The brushed DC electric motor generates torque directly from DC power supplied to the motor by using internal commutation, stationary magnets , and rotating electrical magnets.Like all electric motors or generators,...

 by Frank J. Sprague
Frank J. Sprague
Frank Julian Sprague was an American naval officer and inventor who contributed to the development of the electric motor, electric railways, and electric elevators...

 and accelerated after the AC motor
AC motor
An AC motor is an electric motor driven by an alternating current.It commonly consists of two basic parts, an outside stationary stator having coils supplied with alternating current to produce a rotating magnetic field, and an inside rotor attached to the output shaft that is given a torque by the...

 was developed by Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

 (Westinghouse) and others. Electrification of factories was fastest between 1900 and 1930, aided by the establishment of electric utilities with central stations and the lowering of electricity prices from 1914 to 1917.

Electric motors were several times more efficient than small steam engines because central station generation were more efficient than small steam engines and because line shaft
Line shaft
A line shaft is a power transmission system used extensively during the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the widespread use of electric motors small enough to be connected directly to each piece of machinery, line shafting was used to distribute power from a large central power source to machinery...

s and belts had high friction losses.
Electric motors allowed also more flexibility in manufacturing and required less maintenance than line shafts and belts. Many factories saw a 30% increase in output just from changing over to electric motors.

Electrification enabled modern mass production, as with Thomas Edison’s iron ore processing plant (about 1893) that could process 20,000 tons of ore per day with two shifts of five men each. At that time it was still common to handle bulk materials with shovels, wheelbarrows and small narrow gauge rail cars, and for comparison, a canal digger in previous decades typically handled 5 tons per 12 hour day.

The biggest impact of early mass production was in manufacturing everyday items, such as at the Ball Brothers
Ball Brothers
The Ball brothers were the founders of the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Business which eventually became Ball Corporation. They greatly improved the quality of life of Muncie, Indiana through their philanthropy and business. They were instrumental in the creation of Ball State University, and...

 Glass Manufacturing Company
Ball Corp.
Ball Corporation , originally Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company, is an American company famous for producing glass canning jars. Founded in 1880, it is currently headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado. The company has expanded into other areas such as avionics, space systems, metal beverage...

, which electrified its mason jar
Mason jar
A Mason jar is a glass jar used in canning to preserve food. They were invented and patented by John Landis Mason, a Philadelphia tinsmith in 1858. They are also called Ball jars, after Ball Corp., a popular and early manufacturer of the jars; fruit jars because they are often used to store...

 plant in Muncie, Indiana
Muncie, Indiana
Muncie is a city in Center Township, Delaware County in east central Indiana, best known as the home of Ball State University and the birthplace of the Ball Corporation. It is the principal city of the Muncie, Indiana, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 118,769...

, USA around 1900. The new automated process used glass blowing machines to replace 210 craftsman glass blowers and helpers. A small electric truck was used to handle 150 dozen bottles at a time where previously a hand truck would carry 6 dozen. Electric mixers replaced men with shovels handling sand and other ingredients that were fed into the glass furnace. An electric overhead crane replaced 36 day labor
Day labor
Day labor is work done where the worker is hired and paid one day at a time, with no promise that more work will be available in the future. It is a form of contingent work.-Types:Day laborers find work through three common routes....

ers for moving heavy loads across the factory.

According to Henry Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

:
”The provision of a whole new system of electric generation emancipated industry from the leather belt and line shaft
Line shaft
A line shaft is a power transmission system used extensively during the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the widespread use of electric motors small enough to be connected directly to each piece of machinery, line shafting was used to distribute power from a large central power source to machinery...

, for it eventually became possible to provide each tool with its own electric motor. This may seem only a detail of minor importance. In fact, modern industry could not be carried out with the belt and line shaft for a number of reasons. The motor enabled machinery to be arranged in the order of the work, and that alone has probably doubled the efficiency of industry, for it has cut out a tremendous amount of useless handling and hauling. The belt and line shaft
Line shaft
A line shaft is a power transmission system used extensively during the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the widespread use of electric motors small enough to be connected directly to each piece of machinery, line shafting was used to distribute power from a large central power source to machinery...

 were also tremendously wasteful – so wasteful indeed that no factory could be really large, for even the longest line shaft was small according to modern requirements. Also high speed tools were impossible under the old conditions – neither the pulleys nor the belts could stand modern speeds. Without high speed tools and the finer steels which they brought about, there could be nothing of what we call modern industry.”

Mass production was popularized in the 1910s and 1920s by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

, which introduced electric motors to the then-well-known technique of chain or sequential production. Ford also bought or designed and built special purpose machine tools and fixtures such as multiple spindle drill presses that could drill every hole on one side of an engine block in one operation and a multiple head milling machine
Milling machine
A milling machine is a machine tool used to machine solid materials. Milling machines are often classed in two basic forms, horizontal and vertical, which refers to the orientation of the main spindle. Both types range in size from small, bench-mounted devices to room-sized machines...

 that could simultaneously machine 15 engine blocks held on a single fixture. All of these machine tools were arranged systematically in the production flow and some had special carriages for rolling heavy items into machining position. Production of the Ford Model T
Ford Model T
The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

 used 32,000 machine tools.

All processes in the factory were capable of turning out high precision work within tolerances.

Ford's contribution to mass production was synthetic in nature, collating and improving upon existing methods of sequential production and applying electric power to them, resulting in extremely-high-throughput, continuous-flow mass production, making the Model T affordable and, as such, an instant success. 

Although the Ford Motor Company brought mass production to new heights, it was a synthesizer and extrapolator of ideas rather than being the first creator of mass production. The following paragraphs touch on precursors from prior eras.

Before the 20th century


Ships had been mass-produced using prefabricated parts and assembly line
Assembly line
An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

s in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 several hundred years earlier. The Venetian Arsenal
Venetian Arsenal
The Venetian Arsenal was a complex of state-owned shipyards and armories clustered together in Venice in northern Italy. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice's naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD...

 apparently produced nearly one ship every day, in what was effectively the world's first factory
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

 which, at its height, employed 16,000 people. Mass production in the publishing industry has been commonplace since the Gutenberg Bible
Gutenberg Bible
The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed with a movable type printing press, and marked the start of the "Gutenberg Revolution" and the age of the printed book. Widely praised for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities, the book has an iconic status...

 was published using a printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 in the mid-15th century.

In the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 simple mass production techniques were used at the Portsmouth Block Mills
Portsmouth Block Mills
The Portsmouth Block Mills form part of the Portsmouth Dockyard at Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, and were built during the Napoleonic Wars to supply the British Royal Navy with pulley blocks. They started the age of mass-production using all-metal machine tools and are regarded as one of the...

 to make ships' pulley blocks for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 in the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

. These were also used to make clocks and watches, and to make small arms. Though produced on a very small scale, Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 gunboat engines designed and assembled by John Penn
John Penn (engineer)
John Penn FRS, was a marine engineer, whose firm was pre-eminent in the middle of the nineteenth century due to his innovations in engine and propeller systems, which led his firm to be the major supplier to the Royal Navy as it made the transition from sail to steam power...

 of Greenwich are recorded as the first instance of the application of mass production techniques (though not necessarily the assembly-line method) to marine engineering. In filling an Admiralty order for 90 sets to his high-pressure and high-revolution horizontal trunk engine design, Penn produced them all in 90 days. He also used Whitworth Standard
British Standard Whitworth
British Standard Whitworth is one of a number of imperial unit based screw thread standards which use the same bolt heads and nut hexagonal sizes, the others being British Standard Fine thread and British Standard Cycle...

 threads throughout.

While the preceding American system of manufacturing
American system of manufacturing
The American system of manufacturing was a set of manufacturing methods that evolved in the 19th century. It involved semi-skilled labor using machine tools and jigs to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance, which could be assembled with a minimum of time...

 relied on steam power, mass production factories were electrified
Electrification
Electrification originally referred to the build out of the electrical generating and distribution systems which occurred in the United States, England and other countries from the mid 1880's until around 1940 and is in progress in developing countries. This also included the change over from line...

 and used sophisticated machinery. Adoption of these techniques coincided with the birth of the Second Industrial Revolution
Second Industrial Revolution
The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, was a phase of the larger Industrial Revolution corresponding to the latter half of the 19th century until World War I...

 in the USA and its emergence as the dominant industrial superpower in the 20th century. Countries that were quick to follow (e.g. Germany and Japan) achieved high rates of growth.

Use of assembly lines in mass production



Mass production systems for items made of numerous parts are usually organized into assembly line
Assembly line
An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

s. The assemblies pass by on a conveyor, or if they are heavy, hung from an overhead crane
Overhead crane
An overhead crane, commonly called a bridge crane, is a type of crane found in industrial environments. An overhead crane consists of parallel runways with a traveling bridge spanning the gap...

 or monorail.

In a factory for a complex product, rather than one assembly line, there may be many auxiliary assembly lines feeding sub-assemblies (i.e. car engines or seats) to a backbone "main" assembly line. A diagram of a typical mass-production factory looks more like the skeleton of a fish than a single line.

Vertical integration


Vertical integration
Vertical integration
In microeconomics and management, the term vertical integration describes a style of management control. Vertically integrated companies in a supply chain are united through a common owner. Usually each member of the supply chain produces a different product or service, and the products combine to...

 is a business practice that involves gaining complete control over a product's production, from raw materials to final assembly.

In the age of mass production, this caused shipping and trade problems in that shipping systems were unable to transport huge volumes of finished automobiles (in Henry Ford's case) without causing damage, and also government policies imposed trade barriers on finished units.

Ford built the Ford River Rouge Complex with the idea of making the company's own iron and steel in the same factory as parts and car assembly took place. River Rouge also generated its own electricity.

Upstream vertical integration, such as to raw materials, is away from leading technology toward mature, low return industries. Most companies chose to focus on their core business rather than vertical integration. This included buying parts from outside suppliers, who could often produce them as cheaply or cheaper.

Standard Oil
Standard Oil
Standard Oil was a predominant American integrated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing company. Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world and operated as a major company trust and was one of the world's first and largest multinational...

, the major oil company in the 19th century, was vertically integrated partly because there was no demand for unrefined crude oil, but kerosene and some other products were in great demand. The other reason was that Standard Oil monopolized the oil industry. The major oil companies were, and many still are, vertically integrated, from production to refining and with their own retail stations, although some sold off their retail operations. Some oil companies also have chemical divisions.

Lumber and paper companies at one time owned most of their timber lands and sold some finished products such as corrugated boxes. The tendency has been to divest of timber lands to raise cash and to avoid property taxes.

Today the trend is toward platform companies, where the value added is in market analysis, engineering and product design. The platform company contracts production to outside suppliers, often in low wage countries.

Advantages and disadvantages


The economies of mass production come from several sources. The primary cause is a reduction of nonproductive effort of all types. In craft production
Craft production
Craft production is the process of manufacturing by hand with or without the aid of tools. The term Craft production refers to a manufacturing technique applied in the hobbies of Handicraft but was also the common method of manufacture in the pre-industrialized world...

, the craftsman must bustle about a shop, getting parts and assembling them. He must locate and use many tools many times for varying tasks. In mass production, each worker repeats one or a few related tasks that use the same tool to perform identical or near-identical operations on a stream of products. The exact tool and parts are always at hand, having been moved down the assembly line consecutively. The worker spends little or no time retrieving and/or preparing materials and tools, and so the time taken to manufacture a product using mass production is shorter than when using traditional methods.

The probability of human error and variation is also reduced, as tasks are predominantly carried out by machinery. A reduction in labour costs, as well as an increased rate of production, enables a company to produce a larger quantity of one product at a lower cost than using traditional, non-linear methods.

However, mass production is inflexible because it is difficult to alter a design or production process after a production line is implemented. Also, all products produced on one production line will be identical or very similar, and introducing variety to satisfy individual tastes is not easy. However, some variety can be achieved by applying different finishes and decorations at the end of the production line if necessary.

The Ford Model T produced tremendous affordable output but was not very good at responding to demand for variety, customization, or design changes. As a consequence Ford eventually lost market share to General Motors, who introduced annual model changes, more accessories and a choice of colors.

With each passing decade, engineers have found ways to increase the flexibility of mass production systems, driving down the lead time
Lead time
A lead time is the latency between the initiation and execution of a process. For example, the lead time between the placement of an order and delivery of a new car from a manufacturer may be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months...

s on new product development and allowing greater customization and variety of products.

Socioeconomic impacts


In the 1830s, French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

 identified one of the key characteristics of America that would later make it so amenable to the development of mass production: the homogeneous consumer base. De Tocqueville wrote in his Democracy in America
Democracy in America
De la démocratie en Amérique is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. A "literal" translation of its title is Of Democracy in America, but the usual translation of the title is simply Democracy in America...

(1835) that "The absence in the United States of those vast accumulations of wealth
Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

 which favor the expenditures of large sums on articles of mere luxury... impact to the productions of American industry a character distinct from that of other countries' industries. [Production is geared toward] articles suited to the wants of the whole people".

Mass production improved productivity, which was a contributing factor to economic growth and the decline in work week hours, alongside other factors such as transportation infrastructures (canals, railroads and highways) and agricultural mechanization. These factors caused the typical work week to decline from 70 hours in the early 19th century to 60 hours late in the century, then to 50 hours in the early 20th century and finally to 40 hours in the mid 1930's.

Overproduction was a result of mass production. Using a European crafts system into the late 19th century it was difficult to meet demand for products such as sewing machines and animal powered mechanical harvesters
Reaper
A reaper is a person or machine that reaps crops at harvest, when they are ripe.-Hand reaping:Hand reaping is done by various means, including plucking the ears of grains directly by hand, cutting the grain stalks with a sickle, cutting them with a scythe, or with a later type of scythe called a...

. By the late 1920s most goods were over supplied, which contributed to high unemployment during the Great Depression.

Mass production allowed the evolution
Sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time...

 of consumerism
Consumerism
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen...

 by lowering the unit cost
Unit cost
The unit cost of a product is the cost per standard unit supplied, which may be a single sample or a container of a given number. When purchasing more than a single unit, the total cost will increase with the number of units, but it is common for the unit cost to decrease as quantity is increased...

 of many goods.

See also


  • Batch production
    Batch production
    Batch production is a technique used in manufacturing, in which the object in question is created stage by stage over a series of workstations. Batch production is common in bakeries and in the manufacture of sports shoes, pharmaceutical ingredients , inks, paints and adhesives. In the manufacture...

  • Craft production
    Craft production
    Craft production is the process of manufacturing by hand with or without the aid of tools. The term Craft production refers to a manufacturing technique applied in the hobbies of Handicraft but was also the common method of manufacture in the pre-industrialized world...

  • Job production
    Job production
    Job production, sometimes called jobbing, involves producing a one-off product for a specific customer. Job production is most often associated with small firms but large firms use job production too...

  • Instant manufacturing
  • Just-in-time
  • Lean manufacturing
    Lean manufacturing
    Lean manufacturing, lean enterprise, or lean production, often simply, "Lean," is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination...

  • Industrial engineering
    Industrial engineering
    Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

  • Operations management
    Operations management
    Operations management is an area of management concerned with overseeing, designing, and redesigning business operations in the production of goods and/or services. It involves the responsibility of ensuring that business operations are efficient in terms of using as little resources as needed, and...

  • Manufacturing
    Manufacturing
    Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

  • Mass market
    Mass market
    The mass market is a general business term describing the largest group of consumers for a specified industry product. It is the opposite extreme of the term niche market.-General:...

  • Outline of industrial organization
  • Pilot plant
    Pilot plant
    A pilot plant is a small chemical processing system which is operated to generate information about the behavior of the system for use in design of larger facilities....

  • Production, costs, and pricing
    Production, costs, and pricing
    The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to industrial organization:Industrial organization – describes the behavior of firms in the marketplace with regard to production, pricing, employment and other decisions...

  • Fast-moving consumer goods
    Fast Moving Consumer Goods
    Fast moving consumer goods or Consumer Packaged Goods are products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost. Examples include non-durable goods such as soft drinks, toiletries, and grocery items...

  • Ford Model T
    Ford Model T
    The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

  • Second Industrial Revolution
    Second Industrial Revolution
    The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, was a phase of the larger Industrial Revolution corresponding to the latter half of the 19th century until World War I...