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Encyclopedia > Mass production

Mass production (also called flow production, repetitive flow production or series production) is the production of large amounts of standardized products on production lines. It was popularised by Henry Ford in the early 20th Century, notably in his Ford Model T. Mass production typically uses moving tracks or conveyor belts to move partially complete products to workers, who perform simple repetitive task to permit very high rates of production per worker, allowing the high-volume manufacture of inexpensive finished goods. Mass production is capital intensive, as it uses a high proportion of machinery in relation to workers. With fewer labour costs and a faster rate of production, capital is increased while expenditure is decreased. However the machinery that is needed to set up a mass production line is so expensive that there must be some assurance that the product is to be successful so the company can get a return on its investment. Machinery for mass production such as robots and machine presses have high installation costs as well. Thus, mass production is idealy suited to serve large, relatively homogenous populations of consumers, whose demand would satisfy the long production runs required by this method of manufacturing. As such, it is not surprising that, given a number of other factors, mass production first became prevalent in the United States. 1913 Ford Model T assembly line. ... Henry Ford (1919) Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was the founder of the Ford Motor Company and father of modern assembly lines used in mass production. ... The Ford Model T (colloquially known as the Tin Lizzie and the Flivver) was an automobile produced by Henry Fords Ford Motor Company from 1908 through 1927. ... 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. ... ASIMO, a humanoid robot manufactured by Honda. ... Power press with a fixed barrier guard A press, or a machine press is a tool used to work metal (typically steel) by changing its shape and internal structure. ...

One of the descriptions of mass production is that the craftsmanship is in the workbench itself, not the training of the worker; rather than having a skilled worker measure every dimension of each part of the product against the plans or the other parts as it is being formed, there are jigs and gauge blocks that are ready at hand to ensure that the part is made to fit this set-up. It has already been checked that the finished part will be to specifications to fit all the other finished parts - and it will be made quicker, with no time spent on finishing the parts to fit one another. This is the specialized capital required for mass production; each workbench is different and each set of tools at each workbench limited to those necessary to make one part. As each of these parts is uniformly and consistently constructed, interchangeability of components is thus another hallmark of mass produced goods. The jig (sometimes seen in its French language or Italian language forms gigue or giga) is a folk dance type as well as the accompanying dance tune type, popular in Ireland and Scotland. ... Gauge blocks (also known as gage blocks, Johansson gauges, or slip gauges) are precision ground and lapped measuring standards. ...


Use of assembly lines in mass production

Mass production systems are usually organized into assembly lines. The assemblies pass by on a conveyor, or if they are heavy, hung from an overhead monorail. 1913 Ford Model T assembly line. ...

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.

This is also used in food manufacturing to produce foods continuously.

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, 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.

Vertical integration

Vertical integration 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.

Womack, Jones, Roos; The Machine That Changed The World, Rawson & Associates, New York. Published by Simon & Schuster, 1990.


Ford was first to introduce mass production in recent times, the idea was first developed in Venice several hundred years earlier, where ships were mass-produced using pre-manufactured parts, and assembly lines. Venice (Italian: Venezia, Venetian: Venexia) is the capital of region Veneto, and has a population of 271,663 (census estimate January 1, 2004). ... 1913 Ford Model T assembly line. ...

The Venice Arsenal apparently produced nearly one ship every day, in what was effectively the world's first factory that, at its height, employed 16,000 people. The Porta Magna at the Venetian Arsenal The Venetian Arsenal (Italian: Arsenale di Venezia) is a shipyard and naval depot that played a leading role in Venetian empire-building. ... A factory worker in 1940s Fort Worth, Texas. ...

Mass production in the publishing industry has been commmonplace since Johannes Gutenberg's Bible was published using a printing press in the mid-1400s. Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (c. ... A copy of the Gutenberg Bible, this version owned by the U.S. Library of Congress The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, and as the Mazarin Bible) is a print of the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible that was printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz... The printing press is a mechanical device for printing many copies of a text on rectangular sheets of paper. ...

During the Industrial Revolution simple mass production techniques were used at the Portsmouth Block Mills to manufacture ships' pulley blocks for the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. It was also used in the manufacture of clocks and watches, and in the manufacture of small arms. A Watt steam engine. ... 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. ... The Royal Navy is the navy of the United Kingdom. ... Combatants Allies: Austria[1] Portugal Prussia[1] Russia[2] Spain[3] Sweden United Kingdom[4] French Empire Kingdom of Holland Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Naples Duchy of Warsaw Kingdom of Bavaria[5] Kingdom of Saxony[6] Confederation of the Rhine Kingdom of Denmark [7] Commanders Archduke Charles Prince Schwarzenberg...

During the American Civil War, the Springfield Armory started to mass produce guns, using interchangeable parts on a large scale. For this reason, the term Armory practice is occasionally used to refer to mass production. Combatants United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America (Confederacy) Commanders Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee Strength 2,200,000 1,064,000 Casualties 110,000 killed in action, 360,000 total dead, 275,200 wounded 93,000 killed in action, 258,000 total... From 1794 to 1968 the Springfield Armory was a center for the manufacture of U.S. military small arms and the site of many important technological advances. ... Interchangeable parts are components of an assembly line which are designed to meet a specific component of one type can be fitted with any component of a second type. ... The American system of manufacturing involves semi-skilled labor using machine tools and templates (or jigs) to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance. ...

Soon after the war, the American System of Watch Manufacturing showed that these techniques could be successfully applied even when very high precision was required. Later, in the 1890s, dollar watches traded off lower precision for much lower manufacturing costs. Aaron Lufkin Dennison was inspired by the manufacturing techniques of the United States Armory at Springfield, Mass. ... A dollar watch was a pocket watch that sold for about one dollar. ...

While the preceding American system of manufacturing relied on water and steam power, mass production factories were electrified and used sophisticated machinery. Adoption of these techniques coincided with US growth take-off. The American system of manufacturing, developed by Eli Whitney in 1799, involves semi-skilled labour using machine tools and templates (or jigs) to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance. ...

French political thinker and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville identified one of the key reasons mass production was able to succeed so quickly in America, namely that of the homogeneous consumer base. De Tocqueville wrote in his Democracy in America (1835) that "The absence in the United States of those vast accumulations of wealth 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. [Production is geared toward] articles suited to the wants of the whole people".

See also

Manufacturing, a branch of industry which accounts for about one-quarter of the worlds economic activity, is the application of tools and a processing medium to the transformation of raw materials into finished goods for sale. ... Craft production is the process of manufacturing by hand with or without the aid of tools. ... Batch production is used to produce or process any product in groups that are called batches, as opposed to a continuous production process, or a one-time production. ... Job implementation into the final specific job. ... Just In Time (JIT) is an inventory strategy implemented to improve the return on investment of a business by reducing in-process inventory and its associated costs. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Toyota Production System. ... In microeconomics, production is the act of making things, in particular the act of making products that will be traded or sold commercially. ...

External links

  • Listen to “The Terror of the Machine” by Henry Ford Free mp3 audio download from ThoughtAudio.com

  Results from FactBites:
Mass production - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1004 words)
Mass production (also called flow production or repetitive flow production) is the production of large amounts of standardized products on production lines.
Mass production is capital intensive, as it uses a high proportion of machinery in relation to workers.
Mass production in the publishing industry has been commmonplace since Johannes Gutenberg's Bible was published using a printing press in the mid-1400s.
Mass Production (901 words)
The mass production process itself is characterized by mechanization to achieve high volume, elaborate organization of materials flow through various stages of manufacturing, careful supervision of quality standards, and minute division of labour.
The major experiments that eventually led to mass production were first performed under the aegis of the military.
The system of manufacture involving production of many identical parts and their assembly into finished products came to be called the American System, because it achieved its fullest maturity in the United States.
  More results at FactBites »



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