Methods of production
Production is at the heart of all industry and is the process of using the resources of a firm to convert ‘inputs’ into ‘outputs’, which are products or services desired by customers.
Job production is used to create one-off orders or ‘jobs’ especially made for the purpose. This might be a relatively small job such as bespoke suit or a sandwich made to order in a café, or it could be a massive job such as a cruise liner or the Arsenal’s new stadium.
Job production helps ensure that the product or service matches the customer’s exact needs, as closely as the firm is able, because it is literally ‘custom-made’. In many cases, skilled or specialised staff make products of very high quality, or which have individual character that might have less appeal if they were mass-produced.
Job production is a relatively expensive process because it requires specialised and skilled staff who concentrate on the individual job or project. It is therefore labour intensive, although some projects – such as the cruise liner – may also need a lot of expensive capital equipment.
Small businesses that are built on the skills of the owner, such as a window cleaner or a hairdresser, use job production techniques.
As the name suggests, products are produced in small or large batches. This process is useful to a firm that makes a number of different variations of basically similar products. Examples would include; a bakery, a car exhaust pipe factory or a toothpaste manufacturer.
If the sandwich shop mentioned above wanted to speed up production, instead of making sandwiches to order, it might be able to benefit by making the day’s sandwiches in batches of all the different types and have them available for sale, pre-packed.
A toothpaste manufacturer will set its weekly batches of production of each product according to the orders from the supermarkets and wholesalers. The same machinery is used for each product but the ingredients, packaging an/or size is changed for each batch as required. It is crucial that the machinery can be quickly cleaned and re-configured for each new batch to minimise unproductive time.
In a factory that uses flow production (see below), it is quite common for component parts to be made in batches enough for a week’s production.
This is a production line method, where product is continuously produced, flowing from one stage of production to the next. Workers and, increasingly robots, carry out individual repetitive tasks aiming to work as quickly as possible without loss of quality. This is the method pioneered by Henry Ford for his Model T car, and the efficiencies he gained enabled him to produce large numbers of cars at low cost. Any product made in high volumes will almost certainly be made on a flow production line.
This approach to production has close links with FW Taylor and his ‘Scientific school of management’ – Taylor’s motivational theories were all about creating the workplace and forms of reward to maximise efficiency. This in turn led to very boring work and contributed to industrial unrest over the years where workers’ interests were overlooked.
More modern, lean production techniques have at least partly recognised the fact that this type of work can be extremely boring, and ideas such as cell production and quality circles can help improve the workplace as workers become multi-skilled, take more responsibility for quality and can contribute their ideas for improvements.
Flow production systems are typically capital intensive and it is important to keep them running smoothly with high levels of capacity utilisation, so that these high overhead costs are spread over as many units as possible.
Once set up properly, flow production lines can in some cases produce millions of consistently high quality products.
This is a form of flow production in which the line is separated into a number of sections, each looked after by a group of workers called a ‘cell’. Cells take responsibility for work in their area, such as quality, job rotation, training and so on. See notes on Lean Production for more detailed discussion of Cell Production.
Evaluation - ‘Personalised flow’
The distinction between the different methods of production is sometimes not totally clear. With some higher-value products made in flow production, such as motor vehicles, it is now possible to personalise the product for each order.
Cars such as the new Mini are made to order, and customers specify colour, trim, and accessories from an extensive list. This has been made possible through advances in computerised ordering and manufacturing systems and through advances in the actual processes – such as robotised paint spraying in the case of the Mini. This means that customers get a very personalised product with all the cost benefits and consistent quality from flow production.
Also see the revision note on labour intensive and capital intensive production for a more detailed discussion of these terms.
|Production & Operations Glossary - Key Terms|
Recent articles on the Business & Management Blog
Working with Our Strategic Partners
Boston House | 214 High Street | Boston Spa | West Yorkshire | LS23 6AD | Tel +44 0844 800 0085 | Fax +44 01937 529236
Company Registration Number: 04489574 | VAT Reg No 816865400