Mass production

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For the American band of the 1970s and 1980s, see Mass Production (band).

Mass Production (also called Flow Production) is the production of large amounts of standardized products on production lines. It was popularized by Henry Ford in the early 20th Century, notably in his Ford Model T. Mass production is notable because it permits very high rates of production per worker and therefore provides very inexpensive products. 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 produciton, capital is increased while expenditure is decreased.


Use of assembly lines in mass production

Mass production systems are usually organized in assembly lines. The assemblies pass by on a conveyor, or if they are heavy, hung from an overhead monorail.

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 manufacture 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 retreiving 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 predominately 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 for a lower price than if using traditional, non-linear methods.

However, mass production is inflexible in that 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 cannot be tailored to individual tastes. However, some variety can be achieved by applying different finishes and decorations at the end of the production line if necessary.

Vertical integration

A final very important strategy is vertical integration. In this strategy, the manufacturer produces all or most of the parts and subassemblies that go into the product. For example, at one point, Ford Motor Company literally mined iron ore in Minnesota and turned it into cars in Detroit, capturing all the profits from all the processes that added value to iron ore.

Nowadays, rather than assembling everything, factory managers choose which assemblies to produce based on the return on investment (ROI) that each assembly process can produce. The basic plan is to outsource unprofitable subassemblies to other organizations. Often, such organizations can afford specialized equipment or organization that makes them substantially more efficient than an ordinary factory at particular tasks.


While 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.

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.

Mass production in the publishing industry has been commmonplace since Johannes Gutenberg's Bible was published using a printing press in the mid-1400s.

During the American Civil War, the Springfield Armoury started to mass produce guns, using interchangeable parts on a large scale. For this reason, the term 'Armoury Practice' is occasionally used to refer to mass production.

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.

See also

he:ייצור המוני ja:大量生産 sv:Massproduktion zh:大量生產