Reading: Production Processes

Photo shows a long line of dominoes with a single Peeps marshmallow bunny standing in for one of the dominoes.


The best way to understand operations management in manufacturing and production is to consider the things you use on a daily basis: They were all produced or manufactured by someone, somewhere, and a great deal of thought and planning were needed to make them available. Watch the following video on the process used to manufacture the amazing Peep. It will serve as a point of reference because it features many of the process components we will be discussing in this reading.

Businesses know what they want to produce, but the challenge is to select a process that will maximize the productivity and efficiency of production. Senior management looks to their operations managers to inform this decision. As we examine the four major types of production processes, keep in mind that the most successful organizations are those that have their process and product aligned.

Project- or Job-Based Production

Project-based production is one-of-a-kind production in which only one unit is manufactured at a time. This type of production is often used for very large projects or for individual customers. Because the customer’s needs and preferences play such a decisive role in the final output, it’s essential for the operations manager to maintain open and frequent communication with that customer. The workers involved in this type of production are highly skilled or specialists in their field.

The following are examples of project- or job-based production:

  • custom home construction
  • haircuts
  • yachts

Batch Production

Batch production is a method used to produce similar items in groups, stage by stage. In batch production, the product goes through each stage of the process together before moving on to the next stage. The degree to which workers are involved in this type of production depends on the type of product. It is common for machinery to be used for the actual production and workers participate only at the beginning and end of the process.

Examples of batch production include the following:

  • bakeries
  • textiles
  • furniture

Mass Production

Mass production is used by companies that need to create standardized products in large quantities as economically as possible. Products are mass produced in order to generate the inventory needed to meet high market demand. This type of production usually requires heavy investment in machinery and equipment; workers are generally needed to assemble component parts to make the finished good.

The following goods are mass produced:

  • toilet paper
  • cell phones
  • automobiles

Flow or Continuous Production

Flow production, also known as continuous production, occurs when a process runs twenty-four hours a day. Companies whose products are homogeneous use this production approach to reduce cost and increase efficiency. These systems are highly automated, and workers act as monitors rather than as active participants.

Examples of flow production:

  • gas and oil
  • steel
  • chemicals

While these production methods are different from one another and are suitable for different production needs, it’s a mistake to conclude that products are manufactured according to one and only one process. Consider the home in which you live. When the house was built, the contractor used a job process, and highly skilled workers were brought in to install the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems. The carpet that was installed, however, was produced according to a batch process. The carpet manufacturer ran up a batch of carpeting in the color and style that now covers your floors. The kitchen and bathroom light fixtures, however, were probably mass produced before you or the contractor purchased them from a home improvement store. The paint on the walls of your house, meanwhile, was likely the product of a continuous or flow process.

So, even though you may not spend a lot of time thinking about the processes used to make different products, they surround you every day. Every time you come in your front door or eat a meal or even drive your car, you interact with things that were made by combinations of job-based, batch, mass, and flow production processes.