Assembly line examples
Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images
Companies choose manufacturing processes - such as job order, batch process, assembly line and continuous process - based in part on the level of product individualization allowed. Manufacturers use the batch process to produce identical or similar units across different work areas. The assembly line method produces similar units using an automated process. Which of the two methods works best for a company comes down to important variables, such as product type and complexity, production volume, cost and desired unit of production.
Factories use the batch process to manufacture products in sequential stages. The stages are in line, but are disconnected for performances at different workstations. The process produces a group of units called a batch. Different batches may involve one product with variations in the final units. The facility design ensures that batch process workstations are grouped in the same area of a facility. Factories that make clothing often use the batch process to make clothing in different sizes or with slight design differences.
The assembly line method uses heavily automated fixed production sequences to make similar products, sometimes along a conveyor belt. Automation controls the pace of multiple connected activities that are performed in line. An example is an automobile manufacturer’s assembly line on which workers assemble one model at fixed stages along the automated line. The assembly line, which requires significant capital investment, often uses low-skilled workers and offers high volume and low variable costs.
Related Reading: How to Batch Print PDF Files
The batch process has the advantage of increased flexibility, which allows for making small changes to alter the production run. Factories can produce several batches of similar units and different sizes at the same time, such as might be required to fill customer orders or shift production based on demand. The trade-off for flexibility is lost production time during changes in the set-up of workstations. The assembly line process provides less flexibility, although limited variation in products is possible. Accommodating changes to manufacture different products on an assembly line typically requires significant expense and production down-time.
The batch process and assembly line allow managers to easily track and control production. The batch process is a low-cost choice for companies with limited capital and those that do not require large, automated facilities. The batch process also allows companies tighter control over variable costs for multiple, different batches. The low cost and limited flexibility of the batch process might work best for companies that need to start with limited production of a new product. A company might choose an assembly line once demand requires the company to progress to large volume production.