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Mass Production: Examples, Advantages, and Disadvantages

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What Is Mass Production?

Mass production is the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized products, often using assembly lines or automation technology. Mass production facilitates the efficient production of a large number of similar products.

Mass production is also referred to as flow production, repetitive flow production, series production, or serial production.

In mass production, mechanization is used to achieve high volume, detailed organization of material flow, careful control of quality standards, and division of labor. An early example of the demand for standardized products in large quantities came from military organizations and their need for uniforms and other supplies. Precision machining equipment has led to large-scale demand for mass-produced products created cheaply with small workforces.

Key Takeaways

  • Mass production is the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized products, often using assembly lines or automation technology.
  • Mass production has many advantages, such as producing a high level of precision, lower costs from automation and fewer workers, higher levels of efficiency, and prompt distribution and marketing of an organization’s products.
  • Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co., developed the assembly line technique of mass production in 1913.

Understanding Mass Production

Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co. (F), developed the assembly line technique of mass production. In 1913, he pioneered the moving assembly line for production of the Ford Model T automobile. The reduced manufacturing time for parts allowed the company to apply the same method to chassis assembly and drastically reduced the time it took to build the Model T automobile.

Ford continued to refine the process, even hiring someone who studied the way people moved most efficiently. From 1908 to 1927, Ford built more than 15 million Model T cars. As a result of Ford’s mass production, cars became something that the general public could afford, rather than a luxury item that only a limited number of people had access to. Since then, Ford’s concept of time- and space-efficient production has been adopted by most industries, lowering the costs of everyday items.

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Advantages of Mass Production

Mass production has many advantages. If production is stringently monitored, mass production can result in a high level of precision because production line machines have preset parameters. Mass production also results in lower costs because the automated assembly line production process requires fewer workers.

In addition, mass production can create higher levels of efficiency because mass-produced items can be assembled at a quicker rate through automation. Rapid assembly aids the prompt distribution and marketing of an organization’s products that, in turn, can create a competitive advantage and higher profits for a company. For example, McDonald’s (MCD) has a competitive advantage in the fast-food industry because of the speed at which it can produce a meal for time-conscious customers.

Disadvantages of Mass Production

However, not everything about mass production is beneficial. Establishing an automated assembly line is capital-intensive and requires a significant up-front investment of time and resources. If there is an error in the production design, an extensive investment of time and money may be necessary to redesign and rebuild mass production processes. 

A revision of the mass production processes may be required for reasons other than errors. For example, if a pharmaceutical company has a comprehensive assembly line in place for the production of a popular drug, it would be time-consuming and expensive for them to respond to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory change requiring a different production process.

While an advantage of mass production is that it can reduce labor costs, employees who remain part of an assembly line may lack motivation because their tasks are repetitive. The boredom caused by repetitive work can lead to low employee morale and increased levels of turnover.

Manufacturers are experimenting with the integration of three-dimensional (3D) printers in the mass production of everyday products.

Example of Mass Production

Mass production now touches most of what American consumers buy, from cars to clothing to toothbrushes. For example, in 1953, every marshmallow Peep took 27 hours to make by hand. With the introduction of the assembly line, this time requirement had been reduced to six minutes per Peep, and an average of 4.2 million Peeps were made every day in 2003.

Ford took its assembly lines one step further, introducing robots that could unload a die-casting press in 1961. Now robotics play a major part in much mass production, with humans standing in as quality assurance.

Does mass production mean lower wages for workers?

In some areas, factory workers are paid less and work in dismal conditions. However, this does not have to be the case. Workers in the United States tend to make higher wages and often have unions to advocate for better working conditions. Elsewhere, mass production jobs may come with poor wages and working conditions.

Is mass production expensive to set up?

Creating a mass production system can be expensive to set up and even more expensive to alter if changes need to be made after the production has already started. The cost of setup is generally offset by the efficiency with which products are made once the system is up and running.

Does mass production produce quality items?

It can. As Henry Ford proved, very complex products can be made successfully using assembly line techniques. However, if there are unforeseen problems with an element of your product, that issue can be replicated thousands of times before it may be noticed. This is why product recalls are frequent among mass-produced items.

The Bottom Line

Mass production, also known as flow production, repetitive flow production, series production or serial production, is a manufacturing process where goods are produced in large quantities using standardized designs, machinery, and assembly line techniques. The goal of mass production is to produce goods at a lower cost, making them more affordable and accessible to consumers. This is achieved by dividing the production process into smaller, specialized tasks that can be performed by unskilled or semi-skilled workers using specialized machinery. It should be noted that mass production is capital intensive. Mass production has revolutionized many industries, including automotive, electronics, and consumer goods, and has enabled the production of large quantities of goods quickly and efficiently.

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