Different Types of Manufacturing Processes

Types of manufacturing processes
To an outsider, manufacturing processes can seem like magic. The entire system is so controlled, coordinated, and efficient that it can be awe-inspiring and difficult to understand. This is why it’s helpful for anyone in the manufacturing space to get familiar with each type of manufacturing process they may encounter and when each is appropriate.

5 Different Types of Manufacturing Processes

The different types of manufacturing processes fall into one of five categories:

1. Repetitive

Repetitive manufacturing is the familiar production line. Since the days of Henry Ford and his moving assembly line, repetitive assembly lines have been the cornerstone of large scale manufacturing across the world. These assembly lines are based on consistent, repeatable production methods that maintain a set production rate over time. Setup requirements for such production lines are usually minimal, with little changeover throughout their operation. As such, repetitive production is used to produce large product runs that have little variance in design, such as electronics, vehicles, or clothing. The speeds of these lines can be adjusted up or down to accommodate changes in demand for the product, making this a good all-purpose methodology.

2. Discrete

Similar to repetitive manufacturing, discrete manufacturing is based on the assembly line method – but with several key distinctions. Discrete manufacturing can be thought of as the “flexible” version of repetitive manufacturing. While repetitive manufacturing is ideal for manufacturing a set range of products that are similar in design, discrete manufacturing involves frequent changeovers and a more diverse range of production configurations. It offers the efficiency of a traditional assembly line but with increased variety in what products can be produced. They’re not as material specific as repetitive production lines, but they tend to work with several products at once, meaning that operators need to balance how often they tear down each configuration with how quickly each run is produced to optimize production efficiency long-term.

3. Job Shop

Unlike the two methodologies, job shops don’t typically use production lines or much automation. Instead, they have production areas for specific projects and are usually powered by manual labor. Job shops offer a customized manufacturing process that’s ideal for low-volume, high-quality work. Most companies that perform job shops have limited capacity in what they can produce – a natural result of manual processes and limited production assets. And depending on the project, this might be a preferable approach. Products made through this method tend to be highly specialized and require only a few iterations or perhaps a small batch run. As such, quality over quantity is the name of the game with job shops. Should demand for a particular product grow to an unsustainable level, some of these manual workflows may need to be replaced with automated assembly components.
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4. Process (Continuous)

The continuous process method of manufacturing is similar to the repetitive method in that it uses large assembly lines that run around the clock. The key difference is in the product output. In most cases, the finished product here will be a liquid, gas, slurry, or powder type of material. Like the repetitive process, continuous process manufacturing is meant to run around the clock 24/7 to produce a constant output. For example, a refinery processing olive oil will have a large-scale system to produce large volumes of refined oil at a standardized pace. Olives will be cleaned, treated, ground, and mashed to produce a consistent output of oil, after which the constituent components will be recycled or repurposed. It’s a methodology that keeps products moving and prepares each piece of material for further processing down the line.

5. Process (Batch)

Our final method is batch processing. This is comparable to a job shop or a discrete manufacturing method, as production is handled in smaller batches rather than a 24/7 ongoing process. Product runs are handled on a case-by-case basis, with equipment producing multiple products over time as needed. As the name suggests, these tend to be done in batches that are larger and more involved than those in a typical job shop, but the methodology is adaptable to suit a wide range of needs. If there’s only a single item as the final product, the method can be run analogous to a job shop. And if finished goods need to be designed to a certain specification, it can be run as a continuous batch process to ensure that all materials are processed correctly.

Get Familiar With Manufacturing Processes

The different types of manufacturing processes can be confusing to a layperson, which is why it’s helpful to have resources on hand that line out the differences. Whether you’re brushing up on your own education or preparing to give others a tour of your facility, make sure you know how to explain these processes and the advantages of each. Stay up to date with the latest news and best practices in the manufacturing industry. Corning Data has years of experience in managed technical services for the industrial, automotive, and raw material manufacturing industries. Visit our site to learn more about what we do and how we can support your business with ERP software implementation.