Manufacturing Processes: Which One Should You Choose?
It’s easy to think of manufacturing in terms of tropes: an automated assembly line moving at warp speed, or batch after batch of identical products being packaged by hand. But production is much more nuanced than many people realize, and there’s no prescriptive way to produce a product.
Various types of manufacturing processes are available. Understanding the differences between them is essential for not only optimal production speed but also product cost and quality. Let’s explore the five core manufacturing processes.
How it’s made
The concept of production is straightforward: turning raw materials into a finished, saleable good. But the process from point A to point B can vary significantly based on the product in question. Machining auto parts is not like producing prescription medication. As such, every manufacturer approaches the path to production differently.
Does your production process need to focus on one thing at a time? Can you produce in batches? Are there customizations to consider? Do you collaborate with customers or make a stock item? As manufacturers ask themselves these questions, the production process itself becomes clearer.
5 types of manufacturing
How do you go from raw materials to a finished product? The manufacturing system you rely on to create high-quality goods likely falls into one of the following categories:
- Continuous manufacturing. Producers who rely on continuous manufacturing processes make goods 24/7, but this is a unique system due to the state of the raw materials used. Manufacturers are not waiting for orders to roll in — they’re producing something with constant demand. Oil-refining, metal-smelting, and food-production industries typically employ this production method.
- Discrete manufacturing. This diverse manufacturing system utilizes an assembly line to allow for various setups and frequent changeovers. Companies using discrete manufacturing methods often make vastly different items, requiring setup and teardown of lines and equipment. Producers of furniture, airplane parts, toys, and electronic goods normally use discrete manufacturing systems.
- Job shop manufacturing. This manufacturing method relies on production areas rather than assembly lines and produces smaller batches of products. If consumer demand requires it, these production areas can be transformed into lines to enable discrete manufacturing. Often, manufacturers who make custom parts for other manufacturers use a job shop system of production.
- Batch manufacturing. A blend of discrete and job shop processes, batch manufacturing creates batches of products and preps the equipment before the next run. Batches tend to meet unique criteria and specifications and are highly traceable against these standards. Chemical, pharmaceutical, and clothing companies frequently employ batch manufacturing, since they produce multiple goods on the same set of equipment.
- Repetitive manufacturing. If you produce the same or similar types of items year-round, it’s usually best to follow a repetitive manufacturing strategy. This system uses dedicated production lines to increase or decrease speed and meet customer demands or other requirements. Industries utilizing repetitive manufacturing systems include automotive products, electronic goods, and durable goods.
One size doesn’t fit all
Selecting the right manufacturing process will depend on the product you’re making. Different processes have different considerations. Overall, you must choose the best option for getting the highest-quality product to your customer in a profitable way.
Remember, production is only part of the equation. You also need to manage orders effectively and ensure your equipment is ready to meet current demand — consistent with your ability to maintain quality.