Production process: definition, types and considerations
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 26 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When a company creates products to sell to consumers, it typically follows a strict production process. This involves following various steps, which start with the input stage of product creation and end with the output stage of sales. The right process for each organisation typically depends on factors like the resources available, product demand and organisational structure. In this article, we review what a production process is, discover several types of processes and look at what to consider when choosing the right one.
What is a production process?
A production process is an approach taken to provide goods and services to consumers using economic input or resources, like labour, capital equipment and land. The process is typically designed to efficiently and productively manufacture products for sale to reach customers quickly without sacrificing the quality of the product. There are many different types of processes that businesses can adopt, selected according to manufacturing goals, production numbers and technological tools or software programs.
Types of production processes
There's no universal process, nor is there one that you classify as objectively good. In fact, the process that propels one company to success may cause another to fail. For this reason, it's important to know about the different types of processes so that you can decide which one is most appropriate for your business. Below are some of the principal types with examples of what kind of products they may manufacture:
Job production, also called project-based production, is when an organisation builds one unit at a time from start to finish, rather than splitting the process into phases completed by different people working on different parts of the product. This type of process is common for products in low demand, personalised products, or particularly large (and often industrial) products. Some products that may call for job production are tailored clothes, floor tiling services and bridges.
Because of the personalised nature of this type of production, it typically calls for a closer relationship between the operations manager or service provider and the consumer. Job production commonly produces products of high quality because skilled craftspeople are often hired to do the job. This often means that products produced in this way come at a higher selling price.
Mass production is when employees continuously produce identical items. An operations manager typically assigns team members to different workstations, which are all operational at the same time. Each workstation typically represents one material or addition to a product. All components of mass production are standardised so that the end products are consistent.
Employees work on multiple parts of the product at the same time, which makes the process more efficient and productive. Once the product gets to the end of the production line, it's fully complete and ready for delivery to the customer. Some examples of mass-production products are breakfast cereals, cars and phones.
Batch production is when a company produces products in groups. A classic example of batch production can be found in a bakery: the employees may have an early morning shift, during which they produce all of the bread and pastries that they plan to sell fresh to customers later that day. The size of the batch depends on the product and the production capabilities.
Batch production is somewhat like mass production in that the manufacturer standardises steps in the process and splits them across multiple workstations. It differs, though, in that a manufacturing team cannot begin production on a new batch until the previous one is complete. A benefit of this is that making changes between batches is easy. For example, a baker may find that a certain batch of pastries was too sweet, so the recipe for the next batch can be easily adapted to use less sugar.
Craft production is when products are manufactured by hand through non-automated means. The products made through craft production are typically high in quality and high in price because they're one-of-a-kind and require skilled craftsmanship and dedicated time for each unit. Some examples of products that companies produce through craft production are handmade soaps, artisanal ceramics and bespoke woodwork.
Some businesses may prefer this if they're aiming to sell unique products that they can personalise for each customer. Others may prefer not to take this approach because the process can be much more time-consuming and they may want to be able to offer previously manufactured replacement pieces instead of employing someone to make repairs.
Service production is for intangible services rather than tangible products. It's a way of approaching the process of providing a service as though it were on a production line. It involves automating certain services offered to customers. This form of production is perhaps the one that's most easily affected by the customers themselves because they're present throughout the entire process.
You can provide personalised services through machines that allow customers to press buttons and type to request and receive assistance. A cash machine that works 24/7 is an illustrative example of this. The service is automated in the machine, which allows people to make financial transactions like deposits, withdrawals and transfers. The service also includes customer service, machine maintenance and camera surveillance.
Considerations when choosing a production process
One of the decisions that an operations manager makes before a company can begin to manufacture a product is which type of process is most suitable for the business. Some considerations to take when making this decision include the organisational goals, company resources, and sales forecasts. Below are some of these main considerations in more detail:
This is a consideration of how many units to produce within a given time frame. You can calculate this according to the number of orders you receive and the market demand. You may also wish to adjust the quantity you expect to make according to whether your products are unique or identical. Part of this consideration involves making sure that these decisions are reasonable: for example, if you wish to make artisanal ceramic mugs, it may be impossible to make each one identical and may even take more time to get the precise measurements right.
This involves considering the materials, durability, aesthetic quality and performance of your product. Your capacity to address these elements in a way that satisfies customers factors into your choice of process. For example, if you wish to produce plastic toys for children that are identical, you may have fewer concerns about durability because mass production can allow you to keep an inventory of pre-manufactured replacement pieces.
Selecting the right process of production can often depend on the type of technology and equipment you have available. For instance, if you have a large number of orders for the same product, you may not be able to follow a mass production structure without the proper technology to track, sort or build these products accordingly. You might consider the technology and tools you have access to and the budget you have to buy the necessary systems and items.
This consideration is about your financial capacity to fund and sustain the process of production from start to finish and how much money you can invest into the business for the future. Many companies often start small because they do not have the budget to afford a traditional production line. The size of an investment is also relative. For example, if you decide to begin producing knitted jumpers, your first modest investment may be in balls of coloured wool. Several years later, your investments may be in automated, motorised knitting machines.
Related: What are economies of scope?
Jobs related to the production process
People with highly varied skills and areas of expertise can work in this area. It's important to remember that the process of production does not always involve a traditional production or assembly line. If you're interested in working in the production industry, whether in a local workshop or at an established enterprise with factories that generate large output on a daily basis, there are many interesting career options you can consider. Here's a list of 10 jobs related to the process of production to explore:
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