The production line is a key element to a manufacturing plant. Throughout all Industrial Revolutions, the production line has been present in many variations and types.
A production line, similar to an assembly line, is a combination of human and machine actions that interact to produce an item for general use or consumption. While it is sometimes referred to as an assembly line, a production line involves far more potential actions than simply assembling components.
There are 5 types of production lines, each used for different purposes depending on the product being manufactured and how quickly or differently those products are assembled and packaged.
Mass production is a type of production where each item being made is identical in form, size, substance, and assembly to the other items being made. There is no variation between products, even if one customer is completely different to the next. An advantage of this type of production line is that customers can be sure that if they purchase one of these items, it will be identical to another iteration of the product even when produced at a different place or time.
An example of a mass production line is the classic Ford automobile popularized by Henry Ford. These cars were famous for having no customization and performing identically, meaning that they could be produced at record speed.
Batch production is a type of production in which items are made in groups, or batches. Within a single batch, all products are identical to each other.
An example of a batch production line type is for seasonal products like cans of Coca Cola, where the label has a limited edition holiday design. Each of the cans produced in this holiday batch will have the same design, but the limited edition batches will differ from the regular non-holiday batches in looks (not taste).
A job production line, also known as a project production line, is a type of manufacturing that customizes workflow based on the orders that come in from other manufacturing clients.
An example of a project production line is almost anything labeled as miscellaneous manufacturing or contract manufacturing. These types of manufacturing will produce things like structural elements within the infrastructure and transportation industries, like railroad tracks. The next job contract will dictate the exact layout and sequence of operations.
Just-In-Time is a type of production line that makes products “just” at the “time” orders are placed, which is why it is also sometimes called “made-to-order”.
An example of a Just-In-Time production line is a restaurant kitchen that responds to diners’ orders as they arrive.
A Flexible Manufacturing System type of production line is a type that is optimized to make customizations on a range of product lines. As it is processed or assembled, the product will progress from one workstation to another, each where a single job action is performed by either humans or machines.
An example of an FMS production line is within cosmetics manufacturing, where one type of product like compact powder can be produced in a variety of shades, sizes, and applications.
There are many styles of production lines. A style is different from a type in that a style is usually how a production line is set up and organized. Some styles are more relevant to certain types of production (such as continuous flow and mass production, for example).
Some types of production line can use multiple styles for a unique workflow. An example of this may be using both automated and lean production styles across the lines in a production process.
Continuous flow is a style of production line that mass produces a single product with no variations in form or assembly.
An example of a continuous flow production line is a plant that produces Coca Cola, which is the same formula and packaging as every other iteration of the product.
An automated production line is one that heavily involves machines that handle laborious or dangerous tasks. Automated machinery is often used in assembly processes due to their mathematical precision and programmable elements.
An example of an automated production line is one that performs electroplating for electronics components.
A lean production line is similar to an automated one, since the two both use a traditional approach to integrating production tasks. Lean production lines use a classic approach to manufacturing by using a team of people deployed to separate areas of the production process.
An example of a lean production line is TPS, also known as the Toyota Production System. TPS was introduced in post-war Japan within Toyota automobile manufacturing. It is known as one of the leading styles of production that prioritizes eliminating waste through methodological frameworks such as 6 Sigma.
A discrete production line is one that produces many different items depending on the job being performed. These types of production lines are more diverse; they are not repetitive in the way that is complementary with mass production.
An example of a discrete production line is a toy company that produces many styles and types of toys for a variety of targeted age groups.
An intermittent production line is one that produces similar but not identical items.
An example of this type of production line is in making furniture that is all assembled from the same design specifications, but allows for customizations like small add-ons or changes in color or finish.