Types of Manufacturing Systems

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Companies rely on a variety of manufacturing systems to produce everything from consumer goods to high-tech electronics. Whether you're starting a new business or taking a critical look at your existing firm, understanding different types of manufacturing systems is critical to success. The right manufacturing system can help your firm meet production goals, maintain high quality standards and keep costs low and profits high.

Custom Manufacturing System

  • Custom manufacturing systems represent one of the oldest and most widely used forms of product making. In this system, a single craftsman produces one item at a time by hand or by machine. If machines are used in this system, they are often highly specialized, and capable of producing only a single line of merchandise. This system offers the lowest level of efficiency and highest cost per unit, and results in very low levels of production.

Intermittent Manufacturing System

  • Intermittent manufacturing systems, often called "job shops," are capable of producing multiple items at the same time. These objects must be identical, or very similar, and cannot be customized for individual buyers. This type of system works best for limited production runs, or for companies looking to produce a low volume of goods.

Continuous Manufacturing System

  • Continuous manufacturing systems allow for mass production of products. In this system, the product moves from station to station along an assembly line, with different workers performing various production tasks along the way. Continuous systems were first used during the Industrial Revolution, and are often associated with the Ford Company's Model T production. This type of system allows companies to meet high production goals, and results in a lower per-unit cost. Because of the large amount of equipment required to create an assembly line, as well as the level of labor, this type of system is often associated with large capital investments.

Flexible Manufacturing System

  • Flexible manufacturing systems represent one of the most widely used modern production systems. In this type of setup, companies invest in a variety of machinery that can be quickly and easily reconfigured to produce a large number of products. Flexible manufacturing often incorporates robots or automatic vehicles to help move products through the production process, eliminating the need for skilled labor.

    This type of system allows for a high degree of flexibility in terms of product mix, and helps the company maintain high volume in each production run. Because robots replace human labor in this type of system, products tend to be fairly consistent and quality remains high. This system requires a high degree of capital investment as well as frequent maintenance and oversight.

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