A manufacturing process uses manufacturing methods, operations scheduling software, machinery, and labor to transform raw material into the finished product. Broadly, there are five manufacturing processes, and most businesses that create products will fall into one of these five categories.
However, how that works for each business will differ slightly, based on their individual products, the business' ethos, and the resources and facilities they have available.
Basic manufacturing that creates the same product on an assembly line is engaged in the repetitive manufacturing process. These types of rapid manufacturing operations will produce the same or very similar products en masse 24/7.
The manufacturing industries that utilize this type of production process including:
These mass production industries are ideal for repetitive manufacturing because the consumer demand for the finished product is stable and predictable. The assembly line will remain fairly constant, with few changes as one product is manufactured over a period of time.
Master plans are created on a period of time and quantity basis. Repetitive manufacturing is often used for make-to-stock production or in a high volume, sales order-oriented environment like automotive. Robots and other automated high-volume manufacturing equipment are used to increase throughput and decrease manufacturing costs in these types of factories.
Discrete manufacturing is the cousin of repetitive manufacturing. It too runs on production lines, but the finished goods that are created during this process often vary considerably.
When switching between different product models, the assembly line configuration must often be changed. In manufacturing facilities, this is known as a changeover and carries setup cost in the form of time, labor, and resources.
For example, in the computer industry, technology not only develops at a constantly rapid rate but the customers demand mass customization. The manufacturing process for producing newer computers and laptops will require modifications to the assembly line to produce and assemble orders that call for the latest electronic components.
In the job shop manufacturing process, production areas, like workstations and workshops, are used instead of an assembly line. Each worker may add something to the product when it passes through their station, before it is moved on to another, and until eventually the final product is finished. This method of manufacturing is ideal for custom manufacturing because it tends to be slower and produces a low volume of highly customized products.
Take for example a job shop that builds custom cabinets. Workers will be stationed at their workstations, and they will add to the cabinet as it is brought to them. One may be in charge of sawing the lumber, another of applying resin, others in charge of polishing the varnish, and others still in charge of assembly.
Keep in mind that job shop manufacturing is not just for low technology products. This process is also used in the advanced manufacturing of fighter jets and rockets for the aerospace and defense industry. These products are produced by highly trained professionals who employ advanced manufacturing techniques and place a strong focus on quality control to ensure a high-quality build.
Continuous process manufacturing is very similar to repetitive manufacturing because it runs 24/7, creates the same or similar products repeatedly, and creates larger order quantities. The key difference here is that the raw materials used are gases, liquids, powders, and slurries, instead of solid-state components.
It works almost exactly the same as repetitive manufacturing besides the difference in raw materials. An example of this in practice might be a pharmaceutical company that produces painkillers in larger quantities.
Traditional industrial manufacturing industries that widely utilize continuous processes include:
The batch process of manufacture differs quite a bit from continuous process manufacture and is more similar to discrete and job shop manufacturing. The number of batches that are created will be enough to serve a particular customer's needs. In-between batches, the equipment will be cleaned and left alone until another batch is required. The raw materials used are more similar to continuous process manufacturing as they are liquids, gases, powders, and slurries too.
A prominent example of this is a sauce manufacturer. They may be capable of creating many sauces - BBQ, ketchup, mayonnaise - but a customer's order may only require one of them. Whilst they make one batch of ketchup for a customer to a specific quantity, the mayonnaise and other sauces won't be in production - instead, the machines will be cleaned and left until it is time to create another batch of that sauce.
The manufacturing process you choose is dependent on your manufacturing industry and the type of product you are looking to create. Sometimes a hybrid manufacturing approach that combines multiple manufacturing processes can be useful if you want to create an assortment of products.
Once you choose the right manufacturing process, it is important to leverage the right manufacturing systems and investing in the right manufacturing technology to ensure process control. Your ERP and MES systems are a step in the right direction, but they lack the planning and scheduling capabilities required to become a truly lean manufacturing organization.
For 20 years Optessa has been helping Fortune 100 supply chain leaders optimize their manufacturing processes with the help of advanced planning and scheduling manufacturing technologies. Please contact us for a free demo of our manufacturing software.