6 Types of Manufacturing Processes
Manufacturing is the making of goods, from televisions and automobiles to guitars and clothing. There are several standard manufacturing processes applied across industries, and companies can vary which they use or tailor productions to design and business needs. In this article, we explore what a manufacturing process is and discuss the different processes, how to use them and the advantages of each.
What is a manufacturing process?
A manufacturing process is how a company builds or creates a product. It can be a complex activity that involves a range of machinery, tools and equipment with many levels of automation using computers, robots and cloud-based technology.
A business establishes its own manufacturing process to produce goods specifically for its customers. A company decides which production method to choose based on factors such as consumer demand, sales forecasts, the assembly technique, materials involved and what resources are available. For example, you might choose to make a product in bulk batches while a certain ingredient is in stock or on sale, or in smaller numbers to fulfill customer orders without having additional storage costs.
Many of today's manufacturing processes date back to the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, which took industry from man-made to man-and-machine-made, and as technology advances, processes get easier to understand and follow. Each approach is unique with certain advantages to complete a specific task, and there are sub-sectors within the industry such as food, apparel, chemical or electronic manufacturing.
Read more: What Is Manufacturing?
Six types of manufacturing processes
Depending on your type of business or product, one manufacturing process might work better than another for your company. Here are six types of manufacturing processes used in industries worldwide today:
Job shop manufacturing
Job shop manufacturing uses production areas instead of an assembly line and is most often used for small-batch, custom products that are made-to-order for certain clients or customers. These workstations might focus on one particular product or a handful of them, like a custom shoemaker or commercial printing press, and easily offer the ability to customize the final product. Many machine shops also use this type of manufacturing to make local industrial machinery, ship components or specialized parts for the aviation industry.
With advances in technology, some of these sites may use job shop manufacturing software, which helps manage workflow and production. To scale volume for higher production rates, a business might benefit from moving from job shop manufacturing to repetitive manufacturing, which allows for more automation and fewer people.
Repetitive manufacturing is appropriate when making repeat production at a committed production rate. This manufacturing process has dedicated production lines all working on the same product or component all day, every day year-round. Because there is such little changeover and setup, you can match operation speeds to customer demand or client requirements to make more or fewer items.
Many companies that make electronic goods, automobiles or durable consumer goods like refrigerators and clothes dryers use the repetitive manufacturing process.
Discrete manufacturing uses an assembly or production line, though it is much more diverse than repetitive manufacturing and allows for more frequent changeover and variation. A company can have multiple styles, sizes or modifications for a product with discrete manufacturing, though it often means production can take longer because of extra setup or removal as necessary.
Automobile and aircraft makers use the discrete manufacturing process, along with many companies who produce clothing, medical devices, toys and smartphones.
Batch process manufacturing
Batch process manufacturing shares similarities with discrete and job shop manufacturing processes, driven by customer demand or the availability of ingredients and raw materials. One manufacturing run might produce a batch enough to fill client needs, so you finish production, clean the equipment, and resume when you need another batch.
Food production, newspaper printing, bookbinding, and pharmaceuticals often rely on batch process manufacturing.
Continuous process manufacturing
Continuous process manufacturing runs all the time like repetitive manufacturing. The difference is this process focuses on raw materials that are often gases, powders, liquids or slurry.
Oil refining, metal smelting, paper production and some food products like tomato sauce, juice and peanut butter use continuous process manufacturing.
Many in the industry now recognize 3D printing as a sixth manufacturing process with widespread use. Developed in the 1980s, 3D printing uses various composites and materials like plastics and metals to make three-dimensional goods layer by layer based on a digital model, rather than using physical labor or mechanization. There has been an enormous expansion in this field, with dozens of equipment manufacturers and hundreds of thousands of 3D-printed items already on the market.
While 3D printing can be expensive, it also offers the potential to reduce financial capital, raw materials and waste and lets companies create and test products before committing to them on a larger scale. This growing manufacturing process is already being used for products such as:
Medical and dental devices
Related: How To Calculate Manufacturing Cost
Other types of manufacturing processes
Traditional types of manufacturing styles also include:
Machining uses power-driven tools to shape solid materials and metals by removing extra materials from the piece, usually by trimming. Machining is the foundation of the industry and includes things such as presses, chip-making tools and modern machinery.
Joint patterns consider load factors, assembly performance, upkeep and operations. Bolting is a standard fastening method while welding is more cost-effective and reduces excess weight, because it doesn't require overlapping materials, fasteners or mounted parts in between.
Metal forming bends, spins or stretches using a metal press, die or punching tools. Forming is expensive, though you can reuse equipment by changing the dies.
Casting involves a solid dissolving into a liquid when heated and poured into a mold or cavity. Casting can create complex or simple shapes from any kind of meltable metal with a wide option for designs.
Jobs in manufacturing
If you're interested in starting a career in manufacturing, there are many jobs from which you can choose. Consider these 10 manufacturing jobs to help you get started in your career:
1. [Manufacturing technician](https://www.indeed.com/q-Manufacturing-Technician-jobs.html)
10. Machine operator