Broadly speaking, a manufacturing process is a sequence of tasks that a factory/ plant executes, for converting raw material into finished products. This process involves the usage of numerous tools, machinery, and equipment. And, in contemporary times, even gadgets and devices powered by the latest technologies such as robotics and Artificial Intelligence are included.
It needs to be clearly understood that all manufacturing processes won’t be suitable for every facility. Which type of process is the right one is heavily dependent on many parameters. A few of these factors are the type of product made, the raw materials used, and cost, to cite a few.
There are several divisions and sub-divisions of different kinds of processes. Yet, this article is going to focus on just six of the major categories of the processes. In fact, most of the sub-categories fall under one of these six major classes.
- Repetitive manufacturing: This kind of manufacturing process is ideal for plants/ factories continuously involved in making the same type of product. Even the production line is designed accordingly. Here, as there are no frequent changes, the quantity produced can easily be increased/ decreased based on buyer requirements, devoid of hindrances. Industries like electronics, automobiles, consumer durables, and semi-conductors immensely benefit from repetitive manufacturing.
- Discrete manufacturing: Discrete manufacturing can be called the slightly advanced variant of repetitive manufacturing. Even here, an assembly line is of utmost significance, but this method has some changes.
- There are many manufacturing units where the basic product is the same. But, some extra features have to be added or a few modifications need to be done in the assembly line, depending on user specifications. The best examples of products for which discrete manufacturing is the most suited are smartphones, medical devices, toys, and clothes, among others.
- Job shop manufacturing: Job shop manufacturing completely differs from the above two methods, as here the primary elements are production areas, and not assembly lines. In this particular method, we have specified areas of production for varied projects, and where workers play the most crucial role.
- When a smaller lot of products have to be made needing to be tailored as per customer requirements, the job shop approach is the best one. Thus, it can be said that when quality is more pivotal than quantity, this is the ultimate choice.
- Continuous process manufacturing: This one is rather similar to the repetitive manufacturing process, with the primary variation being in terms of the kind of raw materials. Continuous process manufacturing is greatly helpful for facilities where the primary raw materials consist of gas, powdery materials, and liquids.
- Batch process manufacturing: Just like the job shop pattern, even batch process manufacturing is centered on making top-quality products in small batches. But, the key difference is that in this process, batches are bigger than those seen in a job shop. The process is helpful when different products need to be manufactured in a short span, conforming to varied user specifications.
- 3D printing: It is only in the recent past that industries have slowly started to accept 3D printing as a manufacturing process, too. This form of printing makes use of elements like metals and plastics to manufacture products that are three-dimensional. The significance of this approach is attributable to the fact that factories are enabled in testing products, prior to their manufacture on a bigger scale.