ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Types of Manufacturing Systems

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.


The three main types of manufacturing systems are small batch, large batch and continuous manufacturing.

With the rise of automation and computer aided manufacturing, agile manufacturing and mass customization manufacturing systems have also come into use, attempting to blend the low costs of large batch manufacturing with the responsiveness to customer demands offered by small batch manufacturing.

Small Batch Manufacturing

Small batch manufacturing systems include job shops, machine shops and prototype shops. The manufacturer has many different tools available to complete any combination of required steps to create a single or a few of each product. Small batch manufacturing flows tend to bounce the part between work stations as it is built.

Small batch manufacturing systems have a higher per-unit cost than large batch systems, but offer flexibility and the ability to produce small and medium sized lots that large batch manufacturers may refuse. The latest innovation in small batch manufacturing is the 3-D printer, capable of creating three dimensional models and parts from a computer model. Each model may be a unique prototype or a one of a kind item that would take hundreds of hours to craft by hand.

The job shop is a classic example of small batch, flexible manufacturing.
The job shop is a classic example of small batch, flexible manufacturing. | Source

Large Batch

The classic example of large batch manufacturing systems is the assembly line. Each tool or machine is placed in a location where it can quickly process and forward parts to the next machine or worker. The emphasis of large batch manufacturing systems is on speed in order to produce as much as possible.

Large batch manufacturing systems tend to follow a line or direct flow between machines. This minimizes travel time between stations and reduces the risk of damage during handling. Large batch manufacturing systems tend to be optimized for one particular product. Switching between products has higher tooling costs and down time compared to small batch manufacturing systems. Large batch processing offers lower costs per unit when large volumes, typically thousands of units or more, are produced.

3D printing and prototyping with the creation of single items is the extreme of small batch production
3D printing and prototyping with the creation of single items is the extreme of small batch production | Source


Continuous manufacturing systems or continuous flow systems do not create discrete lots like small batch and large batch manufacturing systems. Continuous manufacturing systems create a continual flow of product. Oil refineries are a classic example of continuous manufacturing systems. You can produce a fraction of a gallon of oil or kerosene, but a widget is either complete or partially done.

Continuous manufacturing includes chemical production, metal refining and plastics extrusion. As long as raw feed stocks are supplied and pumps or motors are running, continuous flow manufacturing systems will keep running. Continuous flow manufacturing offers low costs per unit such as per pound or per gallon.

Agile Manufacturing

Agile manufacturing is an attempt to blend the flexibility of small batch manufacturing with the lower unit cost of large batch manufacturing. Instead of one long production line, rows of the same machine are aligned. Blanks or raw materials start at one end and wind between work stations until a finished product comes off the other end.

In another model, computerized numeric control or CNC machines perform multiple manufacturing operations on one blank. Multiple cutting, drilling and welding operations are done by one machine work station. The part would then be removed and be sent for further processing or inspection. Agile manufacturing allows for faster turnover between products than re-tooling an entire production line, but generally requires greater capital investment in CNC machines or multiple sets of tools.

Mass Customization

Mass customization is a hybridization of small batch and large batch manufacturing to create custom, individualized products. In some cases, mass produced parts are assembled into unique assemblies requested by users.

Modern fast food restaurants are a service based example of mass customization. Rolls and buns are mass produced and shipped to the restaurant. Vegetables are sent to the restaurant and prepared for use. Meat is cooked according to corporate standards. Then each burger or meal is assembled to order. Customized cell phones and personal computers assembled into custom order units are examples of this.

In other cases, mass-produced semi-finished assemblies are customized to create personalized units. Mass-produced baby dolls that are hand painted with the desired skin, hair and eye coloring are another example. Minor investments of human customization or the addition of accessories from a warehouse create a custom product for a slightly higher cost than the mass-produced item, still relying upon a mass-production manufacturing for the majority of components.


Submit a Comment
  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    Oh wow, this is bringing back so many memories from my business school classes! Thanks so much for refreshing my memory on these types of manufacturing systems, tamarawilhite! This is a deliciously fascinating subject.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)