In the age of the service economy, it is easy to forget just how important manufacturing still is to the UK economy. The manufacturing industry is a multi-billion-pound behemoth. It is responsible for millions of jobs and a substantial portion of British exports.
Despite this, 2023 will be marked by continued uncertainty. Reports estimate a decline in output and growth for the sector this year. However, manufacturing is not a monolith.
Companies across this sector cater to many different industries and come in all shapes and sizes. As such, different companies make use of different types of processes to produce and ship their goods to customers.
Do you want an overview of what manufacturing looks like today? Check out this quick explainer on the different types of manufacturing processes that companies use today.
Manufacturing Processes Explained
Before diving into the types of manufacturing processes out there, it's worth breaking down what we mean by this. Put simply, the manufacturing process describes how a company chooses to build its physical products.
This is a process that makes use of a wide range of materials and technologies to create products that meet the quality and demand goals of the company.
There are many factors that determine the best manufacturing process types for a company. These include:
- Demand from customers
- Forecasts of sales
- Types of materials involved
- Complexity of the product
- Production resources
- Labour availability
- Time constraints
- Storage capacity
- Required assembly techniques
By looking at all of these different factors, you can land on the right process for you. A comprehensive Material Requirements Planning (MRP) system can help you map this out and identify exactly what you need to get your products to market.
As the name suggests, repetitive manufacturing is a consistent process that does not change. It makes use of an assembly line to produce the exact same (or very similar) product all day long, and all year round.
There is very little changeover needed once production starts, and setup efforts are always minimal. This process is best suited to products that have a stable customer demand with high volumes.
This is often the most common type of manufacturing process for electronics, durable consumer goods, cars, and semiconductors.
Job Shop Manufacturing
With job shop manufacturing, each stage of the production process is handled by a separate site, workshop, or production area.
At each stage of the production process, a different worker will add something to the product. This continues until the finished product is complete. Since this process takes longer than repetitive manufacturing, job shop manufacturing is best suited for custom, made-to-order products.
This type of manufacturing is useful for producing items with lower customer demand and a smaller market.
To cite one example, job shop manufacturing is often used in the production of custom-made furniture. One workstation might take care of sawing the wood for a coffee table. Another station will assemble the legs.
Another will add the varnish, and so on. People working in job shop manufacturing are usually highly trained professionals with specialised skills.
Batch Process Manufacturing
It's best to think of batch process manufacturing as belonging to the same family as job shop manufacturing. This is manufacturing tailored to the needs of one specific customer.
The "batch" will be produced according to the exact size of one particular order. No more, no less. After this order is fulfilled, the manufacturing setup will be cleaned down and left inactive, until an order for another batch comes through.
In this way, batch process manufacturing is much more sensitive to customer demand than other types of manufacturing. It is meant to prevent costly over-production.
Such manufacturing might be used in the production of pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, and print runs of a particular book.
Discrete manufacturing shares some similarities with repetitive manufacturing. While discrete manufacturing also makes use of assembly lines, a single process can produce a variety of finished products.
This is because the process is set up in a way that allows for tweaks in the process depending on the product. For example, a discrete manufacturing process for computers might be altered when a new version of the same device is released.
This is more time-consuming than repetitive manufacturing, simply because time is needed for various components to be removed or added to the manufacturing process.
Discrete manufacturing is often used when producing computers, smartphones, children's toys, clothes, and medical devices.
Continuous Process Manufacturing
This is another one that is similar to repetitive manufacturing. The continuous process is also one that runs constantly, as the name suggests.
This is only ever used to create the same or very similar products on repeat, often in very large volumes.
However, this process differs from the repetitive process due to the raw materials used. Continuous process manufacturing uses chemicals such as gases, liquids, and powders. It does not use so-called 'solid state' components.
Continuous process manufacturing is thus used to refine oil, produce industrial chemicals, manufacture paper, and produce pharmaceuticals.
3D Printing Manufacturing
This is a rapidly emerging manufacturing process that has only risen to prominence in the past decade. 3D printing uses digital technologies to "print" complex products made of plastics or metals.
Crucially, 3D printing does not use as much labor or mechanics as any of the other types of processes. The main benefit is that 3D printing can be used to quickly produce goods with very precise dimensions.
It can also be used to create test products before beginning a larger-scale manufacturing process. 3D printing is often used in the production of medical devices, dental prosthetics, musical instruments, and even firearms.
Note that 3D printing remains a very expensive form of manufacturing.
All Types of Processes Made Simple with Statii
No matter your product, there are several different types of processes you can make use of to bring it to market. By choosing the right process, you can bring maximum value to your company and your customers. We're here to help you find the right fit.
With Statii's software, you can map out the materials and technology you need to scale up. Do not hesitate to use our free quote calculator to find out how we can help bring your manufacturing to life.