The 5 Types of Manufacturing Processes
It may be surprising to learn that many engineers with great talent and a depth of experience have a hard time answering questions about the type(s) of manufacturing environments that exist in their company.
Most manufacturing environments fit into one of five general categories. Repetitive, Discrete, Job Shop, Process (batch), and Process (continuous).
Here’s a closer look at the five environments:
Repetitive: This category, with some exceptions, is best described as having dedicated production lines that turn out the same item, or a closely related family, 24/7 all year long. Speeding up or slowing down the speed of the operation modulates differences in customer demand. There is little setup and changeover activity.
Discrete: This environment is highly diverse. It covers a range from few setups and changeovers to frequent setups and changeovers. The products being made may be alike or highly disparate. The more unlike the products are, the longer is the unproductive set-up and tear down time.
Job Shop: Job shops rarely have production lines, they have production areas. The area may assemble only one version of a product, a dozen versions, or even a couple dozen. If demand grows, the operation is turned into a discrete line and selected labor operations are replaced by automated equipment.
Process (continuous): These operations are analogous to Repetitive; they run 24/7 all the time. The primary difference is that production materials are gases, liquids, powders, or slurries. In some cases, such as mining, they can be granular or chunky materials. Design considerations are analogous, except the disciplines to create final product and production process are more diverse.
Process (batch): Batch-process operations are analogous to Discrete and Job Shop. Sometimes one batch is all it takes to meet demand. Sometimes it takes several batches. The equipment is then cleaned and the next product run. In some cases, Batch processes can be continuous in nature, making one batch after another of the same product.
Most companies use more than one of these environments to get a single product out the door. This is certainly true considering today’s use of the supply base versus the historical practices of vertically integrated companies commented Salomón Juan Marcos Villarreal, president of Grupo Denim.