What are the four types of manufacturing processes?


Everything around us is the result of specific manufacturing processes. Automobiles, streets, buildings, smartphones, TVs, kitchen appliances, furniture, food, clothes, and more consist of many smaller parts that make up the finished product. Each of these parts and assemblies relies on people, materials, production lines, and machines for their creation. The world would be a very different place without these necessary steps in bringing our products to life.

The Four Manufacturing Processes

  • Repetitive Manufacturing
  • Discrete Manufacturing
  • Job Shop Manufacturing
  • Process Manufacturing 

In general, four main manufacturing processes exist within the bounds of today’s technology. As innovations advances, more techniques may develop over time.

A manufacturing process is an activity that demands skilled people mixed with a large variety of machinery, equipment, tools, computers, automation, and robots. These methods and machines create all the items we use daily to maintain even our most basic way of life. The processes of manufacturing combine in such a way that they optimize the time and resources needed for creating any type of product. When coupled with automation, they can also decrease the number of workers required to complete each task. Here, we will take a look at the various types of manufacturing processes.

What is a Manufacturing Process?

The spectrum of manufacturing is so broad that it is hard for an individual to know every method in use. That is because so many products and gadgets out there get built using multiple production techniques. Pretty much every human-made item we see around us is the result of some of these routines.

Anyone who creates things knows that there are many processes and techniques involved with turning an idea into a physical product. When attempting to produce products on a large scale, the complexity grows significantly. To increase productivity, one must first identify the means of production. Part of this planning includes identifying the manufacturing processes that are needed. Establishing an efficient strategy before starting is essential for maximizing output while lowering the cost of production.

When choosing the manufacturing processes, there are different factors to consider. The exact products to be produced will determine many of the preferred methods of manufacturing. As an example, if you are making clothing, it is almost certain that sewing machines are involved somewhere down the line. Gadgets, on the other hand, will require specialized equipment for electronics assembly. In instances with complex assembly processes, more labor-intensive steps will be crucial. The correct choices for personnel, tools, machinery, electrical, floor space, assembly lines, and other infrastructure are vital.

Each product and process is different in many ways; some need more physical labor, while others require lots of machinery. Some products are intended for fast, mass quantity output, while others demand high quality in much smaller batches. There are challenges for each type of manufacturing choice, but they all require careful planning and thought.

Repetitive Manufacturing

Repetitive manufacturing is one of the oldest processes for manufacturing. Its primary goal is to achieve a high output of products on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. A typical example of repetitive manufacturing would be the Coca-Cola bottling assembly line. These types of plants run twenty-four hours a day, manufacturing the same flavors of soft drinks over and over.

Each of the Coca-Cola drinks uses a particular formula for creating the products, and the method rarely changes. The difference between each of the products will be minimal, and the customer will seldom if ever, taste a difference between each can or bottle. Repetitive manufacturing is commonplace in all types of industrial production plants and assembly lines. The need for the human workforce is going down due to the rise of automated machinery and robots.

Products that are the result of repetitive manufacturing process will have little to no unique features, which is why it is not the best choice of manufacturing for artists and makers who want to create something unique. But for an inventor, designing a product with repetitive manufacturing in mind opens up the possibility for the highest amount of profit. By making the process simple and easily reproduced, one’s focus can shift to marketing, sales, and new product designs. Without this streamlined approach, the inventor could find themselves chained to the demand of filling daily orders without the possibility of growth.

Many people have lost their jobs due to the implementation of automated machinery into repetitive manufacturing lines. While this is an advantage for the inventor to help keep costs down, there is less need to hire workers. In the end, these improvements in efficiency create a new workplace for higher paid engineers, and the technicians needed to keep the machines running.

Some industries that use repetitive manufacturing are:

  • Car production and their components and parts.
  • Electronics including smartphones, TVs, personal computers, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets.
  • Food processing plants.
  • Low-cost clothing.
  • Most items found in retail and online stores.

With repetitive manufacturing, quality control is essential. When factories produce products in large quantities, it is vital to check for the quality of the products. Just one wrong setting in one step of the production can result in faulty products and amount to huge losses. 

In many cases, both discrete and process manufacturing discussed below can utilize repetitive manufacturing, especially where there is a need for higher output volumes. After all, as we mentioned, most products require more than one manufacturing process during production.

Discrete Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing is one of the most common forms of production at present. Almost everything we see in stores is a result of discrete manufacturing. The idea behind it is that it takes ingredients, components, materials, parts, procedures, and processes, and puts them together into multiple distinct products. The products that come off the line are distinguishable from other products made in the same facility. The only association may be that they share many of the same parts and procedures. 

That is the main difference between process manufacturing and discrete manufacturing. With process manufacturing, the end products can fit into various containers and can run 24/7 or gets split into batches of different products of the same line. The result of process manufacturing is raw materials, especially goods like gases, liquids, and powders that can only be the result of specific chemical formulas. On the other hand, discrete manufacturing makes products that consist of various smaller components, also using a prescribed process and is distinct from other products. We can easily distinguish these products from others, while with process manufacturing, we can’t always tell the difference between them.

Like repetitive manufacturing, discrete manufacturing also focuses on large-scale production, but it differs in the way it operates. With repetitive manufacturing, the products are the same almost all the time, and it requires little to no changeovers and machinery adjustments. The workflow is the same, and it based on a schedule. With discrete manufacturing, on the other hand, products can slightly vary from one to another, which requires constant changeovers in the manufacturing processes. The products produced can be very similar to one another, while in other cases, they can differ significantly. The more they vary, the more frequent changeovers occur.

Some examples of discrete manufacturing:

  • Automotive industry
  • Airplane industry
  • Machinery production
  • Electronics products

In addition to those industries that operate on larger scales, we also include some specific types of products into this category:

  • Clothing (custom T-shirt designs, shirt printing)
  • Handmade products (jewelry)
  • Wooden products (toys, furniture)
  • Leather bags
  • many more.

The processes with discrete manufacturing, as opposed to repetitive manufacturing, are not continuous and can be run at various production rates. Sometimes, products require multiple inputs of materials (for example, phones), while other times, only one input is enough (steel for steel structures). The rates of production with this type of process can vary significantly, and it depends on the types of machinery that it uses, and the demand for each specific end product.

Job Shop Manufacturing

While discrete manufacturing differentiates itself from repetitive manufacturing in the sense that it offers more individuality and results in distinguishing products, job shop manufacturing takes it a step further.

Job Shop manufacturing refers to a process that creates custom-made products with a focus on smaller custom orders. The production is rarely large-scale and allows for higher quality while servicing more niche marketplaces. Inventors like us use job shop manufacturing to create unique products at a competitive price. Job shops usually don’t employ assembly lines but instead take advantage of their worker’s abilities to perform multiple tasks. Job shop manufacturing is the perfect choice when following our one hundred unit rule.

These manufacturers usually operate on a small scale, filling individual orders, or make products in batches. Rarely, will job shop shops handle larger scale discrete or repetitive manufacturing requests. Job shop manufacturing uses workstations with people, smaller machines, and tools that are less specialized and usually designed for manufacturing many different products for multiple customers. CNC shops and small electronics manufacturers, as an example, can switch out software, tools, and materials as various orders come in. Each workstation is vital for one or more stages of production but serves multiple purposes expressly set up for each single production run.

The process of job shop manufacturing is rarely the same. A worker might work at one workstation for a length of time, move to other areas, and come back multiple times to the same workstation. This process is very different from the techniques used on Henry Ford’s assembly lines. These are usually small-scale operations with only a few employees, and in some cases, automated machinery replaces as many workers as possible. The personalization with job shop manufacturing is the highest out of all processes and requires a more skilled set of laborers.

Businesses that operate with job shop manufacturing can make products and sell them on their own, or provide products to other individuals and companies. In many cases, though, the main goal of job shops is to produce smaller batches of components and products.

Examples of job shop manufacturing:

  • Customized T-shirt 
  • Custom-made furniture or wood components
  • Personalized personal products (eyeglasses, hygiene products)
  • Customized bags
  • CNC parts
  • Circuit boards

Job shop manufacturing could work in almost any industry where there is a demand for customization. However, it requires a level of knowledge and know-how that other manufacturing processes don’t. Only people with a reasonable degree of expertise and the necessary skills can operate job shops successfully. 

Process Manufacturing

Lastly, we have process manufacturing. This type of production has two subtypes: continuous and batch manufacturing. In both cases, process manufacturing uses particular techniques to create products from raw material. These materials usually go through various chemical reactions until they take on their final form. Among these types of products, we have liquids, gases, powders, and other similar products.

The difference between continuous process manufacturing and batch process manufacturing is that continuous processes take place non-stop for hours, days, or weeks. Batch process manufacturing produces only batches of a product, which gets sold in bulk for commercial or personal use. The results of batch processes usually get used as ingredients or components in other final products. Batch processing takes shorter periods to create batches of products, and there can be periods where nothing gets produced. In both cases, though, the products are mostly in the form of powder, liquid, or as gases. Raw materials for building supplies like concrete are also the result of batch processing.

Examples of continuous process manufacturing:

  • Steel and metal production
  • Oil and Gas refineries
  • Shampoos and other hygiene products
  • Electrical power stations
  • Wastewater treatment plants
  • Pharmaceutical industry products
  • Chemical industry

These industries are usually mechanized and automated, but there still is a need for human oversight. Various technicians, engineers, and specialists analyze and work with the equipment, machines, and production plants closely to keep everything running smoothly.

Examples of batch process manufacturing:

  • Mining industry
  • Soap production
  • Brewing
  • Honey production

Compared to continuous processes, batch manufacturing operates in such a way that it produces batches of product. That doesn’t mean that the batches are small, but more likely, there are simply breaks in production. They can use similar machinery and mechanisms, but the difference is that there is no constant flow of work. Production starts when there is a customer demand to create batches of raw materials. The advantage of batch processing is that the initial costs are much lower than with continuous processing, and there is also room for different configurations and customizations. 

Are you ready to become an inventor?

Getting your idea out of your head and into your hands is only the first in a long set of steps towards becoming a successful inventor.

First Steps To A Successful Invention

At Invention Therapy, we believe that the power of the internet makes it easier than you think to turn your invention idea into a reality. In most cases, you can build a prototype and start manufacturing a product on your own. Changing your way of thinking can be difficult. Being an inventor requires you to balance your passion with the reality of having to sell your products for a profit. After all, if we can't make a profit, we won't be able to keep the lights on and continue to invent more amazing things!

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Richard Haberkern

A professional inventor for over twenty years that has created many different electronic, audio and film industry related products. Richard is best known as the designer and inventor of the Trackstick and Soundlazer. He is also the creator of Invention Therapy and an expert on the subjects of product design, patents, inventing and marketing online. His knowledge will reveal all the secrets that those invention help companies don't want you to know.

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