June 30, 2022


Manufacturing Processes: Everything You Need to Know (Plus Free Templates)

Manufacturing Processes: Everything You Need to Know (Plus Free Templates)

In this post, we’ll answer common questions about manufacturing processes. We’ll also explore the different types of manufacturing, common challenges encountered within the industry, and how leading companies are streamlining their manufacturing processes. What comes to mind when you hear the word manufacturing?

If your only reference is from secondary education, you may picture dreary black-and-white photographs. You know, the ones photographers took during the olden days. 

The downtrodden workers, sweltering conditions, and clunky machinery were enough to make anyone pause before considering a career in industrial maintenance. Thankfully, today’s manufacturing standards have changed quite a bit!

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Sectors from chemicals to electronics rely on strategic manufacturing processes to meet increasingly demanding production requirements. In an era when customers expect Amazon-speed deliveries, production efficiency is paramount to success. 

In addition, recent global supply-chain issues have further incentivized countries to re-evaluate their processes, procedures, and policies for greater reliability. Translation: manufacturing has never been more crucial to the economic stability of nations. 

manufacturing process

Manufacturing Processes: Everything You Need to Know (Plus Free Templates)

Look around the room. 

Chances are that a manufacturing facility produced nearly every item within your field of vision. For example, consumer goods like computers, clothing, and vehicles are made in large quantities on assembly lines before arriving in stockrooms and at home addresses. 

As reported by the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturers account for nearly 12 percent of total gross state output, employing 8.5 percent of the workforce. 

They are able to produce items consistently, quickly, and efficiently by following routine manufacturing processes. The more complex the final product, the more procedures a manufacturer will likely follow to produce dependable outcomes. 

What Is a Basic Manufacturing Process?

A manufacturing process is an established way to convert raw materials into large quantities of products that are ready to sell. Manufacturing processes can range from surprisingly simple to exceedingly complex, depending on the product and organization.  

The number of steps involved in any process depends on several factors: consumer demands, equipment required for assembly, and internal standard operating procedures (SOPs) are just some of the elements that impact production processes. 

It’s worth mentioning that many individuals use the terms processing and manufacturing interchangeably. Though similar in meaning, there are some slight differences between them. 

What’s the Difference between Manufacturing and Processing?

Processing is a broad term that includes manufacturing—all forms of manufacturing fall under its umbrella. However, organizations don’t always classify processing as manufacturing. 

Cambridge English Dictionary defines processing as “the act of preparing, changing, or treating food or natural substances as a part of an industrial operation.” It’s a series of mechanical or chemical actions taken to transform raw materials during production. 

On the other hand, manufacturing is a form of processing that yields finished products made for customers. Thus, the primary objective of manufacturing is always customer satisfaction. The goal of processing, however, may or may not involve serving customers.

In addition, processing may occur on a small scale, while manufacturing is almost always conducted on a larger one. Another frequently discussed term in manufacturing conversations is mass production.

manufacturing process

What Is Mass Production? 

Mass production is the manufacturing of more products than actual demand for a sustained period. The goal of mass production is to produce a surplus of goods according to forecasted demand. 

Often, businesses can save money by investing upfront in a large number of raw materials for production. Surplus deliverables are then stored in warehouses awaiting customer orders. Alternatively, some organizations engage in lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a form of mass production that involves using waste management techniques to minimize unmoving products in warehouses. Initially developed by Toyota executives in Japan, the five lean manufacturing principles are: identifying value, mapping value streams, creating flow, establishing pull, and seeking perfection. 

Characteristics of Mass Production 

  • Standardization: The ultimate goal of mass production is to produce homogenous products in large numbers. An organization’s manufactured goods should all look, feel, and be the same without any deviations. For this reason, upper management must work to develop stringent standards of quality control. 
  • Production Flow: Manufacturing processes should be efficient, allowing workers to move from development to packaging without setbacks. Assembly line delays caused by employee errors, late materials shipments, and equipment downtime are incredibly costly to most manufacturing facilities. Therefore, organized O&M management programs are essential to keeping all systems running smoothly. 
  • Undefined Demand: The primary goal of mass production is to lower the cost of production that does not satisfy fluctuating customer demands. Should product demand decrease, an organization will, ideally, respond by temporarily decreasing sales prices. Assuming the business achieves a low cost-per-unit, it should remain profitable despite selling less expensive goods. 
  • Division of Labor: Manufacturers divide production steps into stages. For example, one machine fills cans with green beans, while another device seals the cans shut. Similarly, one worker may supervise a machine’s automated labeling of cans, while another may drive a forklift to transfer packaged boxes to the manufacturing warehouse. 
  • Expensive Assets: Mass production requires a combination of extensive facilities, complex machinery, and well-trained personnel who know how to operate, maintain, and repair equipment. Mass production, therefore, has high startup costs.

Mass production provides both companies and consumers with many benefits—increased productivity, decreased errors, and cheaper costs—but the practice isn’t without its downsides. As a result, companies engaged in mass production must navigate several challenges. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the industrial sector was responsible for 22.4 percent of the country’s total energy consumption in 2017. 

Additionally, companies must become proficient at minimizing environmental pollutants, motivating employees engaged in rote tasks, and adapting to evolving consumer demands while sitting on excess inventory.

With that said, most stakeholders believe the advantages of mass production outweigh the disadvantages on the whole. Thus, assembly lines keep running, and consumers keep buying. 

mass production

The Ultimate Example of Mass Production

One of the earliest examples of mass production in the United States is Henry Ford’s legendary vehicle assembly line. Ford Motors reduced its production time for making an automobile from 12 hours to approximately 1.5 hours using mass production techniques. 

The result? The plant went from making 14,000 Model-Ts in 1909 to a whopping 189,000 units in 1913! This increase in efficiency helped decrease the car’s price from $850 to $550. 

Let’s dive into the different types of manufacturing processes.

Types of Manufacturing Processes

As outlined by Indeed, industry experts typically divide manufacturing processes into six categories: 

1. Repetitive Manufacturing

Repetitive manufacturing involves continually producing products of identical quality and quantity. It’s ideal for manufacturers looking to achieve a given rate of production. 

For example, say a facility wants to produce 50,000 bottles of water per hour. With minimal requirements and changeover, the manufacturer can adjust its assembly line’s production speeds based on consumer demands. Manufacturers of durable consumer goods (e.g., refrigerators, dishwashers, and dryers) often use repetitive manufacturing.

2. Discrete Manufacturing

Like repetitive manufacturing, discrete manufacturing uses assembly lines for production. However, this method provides organizations with a greater degree of diversity. 

Manufacturers can organize assembly line systems for product changeover frequencies. This means they can produce a more significant variation of product designs, qualities, and quantities. However, discrete manufacturing takes more time to set up. Sectors that rely on this option include automakers, aircraft, clothing, smartphones, and toy manufacturers.

3. Continuous Process Manufacturing

Continuous process manufacturing is similar to repetitive manufacturing. However, it’s limited to products made from raw materials. Think liquids, gases, and powders. The sectors known for using this type of manufacturing include paper production, metal production, and oil refinement. In addition, companies make food products such as peanut butter, tomato sauce, and fruit juices via continuous process manufacturing. 

4. Batch Process Manufacturing

Batch process manufacturing is driven by the availability of raw materials or market demands. Once production for a batch intended to satisfy given customer needs is complete, machine operators clean production equipment in preparation for the next batch. 

Examples of products produced through batch process manufacturing include foods, newspapers, pharmaceuticals, and bookbinding.

5. Job Shop Manufacturing

This type of manufacturing process uses production areas instead of assembly lines. Companies make customized products in small batches according to customer orders or sales forecasts. 

Examples of job shop manufacturing include commercial printing presses and customized shoemaking. In addition, job shop manufacturing can be automated and converted to discrete or repetitive manufacturing when driven by demand. 

6. 3D Printing

Also referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a relatively new manufacturing process.  3D printing uses a digital model to make three-dimensional products layer by layer via various materials such as metals and plastics. 

Though this type of manufacturing process has high startup costs, it provides savings in other areas. Businesses that employ 3D printing save on financial capital, raw materials, and various forms of waste. Goods produced using 3D printing include buildings, musical instruments, shoes, firearms, prosthetic limbs, and medical devices.

Manufacturing processes are sometimes divided into additional categories like molding, casting, and polymer processing. But these methods are rarely used in modern manufacturing processes.

manufacturing process

Manufacturing Process Bottlenecks

Unfortunately, most production lines aren’t without their share of bottlenecks. It’s not unusual for unforeseen elements to slow manufacturing systems, thus limiting production capacity. Therefore, it’s essential to analyze processes for inefficiencies with consistent effort. 

Chron Contributor Bert Markgraf suggests that manufacturers stay vigilant for the following common bottlenecks in their assembly processes: 

  • Throughput: Throughput refers to the number of products that pass through manufacturing processes—bottlenecks limit throughput. Manufacturers can identify bottleneck locations by changing the throughput of each machine. 
  • Accumulation: Assembly line supervisors should scan for “buildups” of products and materials several times throughout the day. It’s not unusual for products to get stuck when passing from one production phase to the next. Both machine and operator malfunctions can be at fault in such situations. In some cases, improved worker training and more precise standard operating procedures are enough to fix the problem. 
  • Downtime/Idle Time: Production lines that involve several machines operating at high capacities are prone to experiencing unexpected breakdowns. Inoperable devices hold up production processes, often causing ripple effects across company lines. CMMS software like MaintainX can help O&M managers automate preventive maintenance scheduling to reduce the likelihood of equipment downtime and worker idle time. 
  • Full Capacity: Every production unit has a built-in output capacity. Machines within each process stage typically work within a fractional percentage of their total power. If machine operators mistakenly set one device to work faster than the others, the entire system could collapse due to mistimed production processes. 

Manufacturers can use the 5 Whys Method to get to the root cause of such productivity blocks. Then, after identifying primary issues, they should use lean manufacturing principles to eliminate them from happening again. 

manufacturing processes

Streamline Manufacturing Processes with MaintainX

Manufacturing is a complex activity that requires a high level of specialization. That’s why manufacturers are increasingly adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, CMMS software, and automation systems to optimize routine processes. 

The best way to eliminate manufacturing bottlenecks and improve your production is to use MaintainX. Our mobile work order software allows operational managers to create, oversee, and assign work orders; standardize production processes with user-friendly checklists, and manage inventory with automated alerts.

In addition, our open-source Global Procedure Library houses thousands of free commonly used procedural templates free of charge. Manufacturing templates are available for download in both PDF and app formats.

Click here for a free 30-day trial of MaintainX Premium.

(no credit card required).

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Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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