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The advantages and disadvantages of Mass Production

Published: 12 Apr 2009 22:19:58 PST

Mass production (also called flow production, repetitive flow production, series production, or serial production) is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines. 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).

Mass production was popularized in the early 20th century by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company, which introduced electric motors to the then-well-known technique of chain or sequential production and, in the process, began a new era often called the "second industrial revolution." 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 hit.

Mass production of assemblies typically uses electric-motor-powered moving tracks or conveyor belts to move partially complete products to workers, who perform simple repetitive tasks. It improves on earlier high-throughput, continuous-flow mass production made possible by the steam engine.

Mass production of fluid and particulate matter typically involves pipes with pumps or augers to transfer partially complete product between vessels.

Mass production is capital intensive and energy intensive, as it uses a high proportion of machinery and energy in relation to workers. It is also usually automated to the highest extent possible. With fewer labour costs and a faster rate of production, capital and energy are increased while total expenditure per unit of product is decreased. However, the machinery that is needed to set up a mass production line (such as robots and machine presses) 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 the craftsmanship is in the workbench itself, not the training of the worker; for example, 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 more quickly, 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.

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