What is an 'Assembly Line'

An assembly line is a production process that breaks the manufacture of a good into steps that are completed in a pre-defined sequence. Assembly lines are the most commonly used method in the mass production of products.They are able to reduce labor costs because unskilled workers could be easily trained to perform specific tasks. Rather than hire a skilled craftsman to put together an entire piece of furniture or vehicle engine, companies would hire a worker to only add a leg to a stool or bolt to a machine.

BREAKING DOWN 'Assembly Line'

The introduction of the assembly line drastically changed the way goods were manufactured. Credit Henry Ford, who set up an assembly line in 1908 to manufacture his Model T cars. Before, workers would assemble a product (or a large part of it) in place, often with one worker completing all tasks associated with product creation. Assembly lines, on the other hand, have workers (or machines) complete a specific task on the product as it continues along the production line rather than complete a series of tasks. This increases efficiency by maximizing the amount a worker could produce relative to the cost of labor.

Determining what individual tasks must be completed, when they need to be completed and who will complete them is a crucial step in establishing an effective assembly line. Complicated products, such as cars, have to be broken down into components that machines and workers can quickly assemble. Companies use a design for assembly (DFA) approach to analyze a product and its design in order to determine assembly order, as well as to determine issues that can affect each task. Each task is then categorized as either manual, robotic or automatic, and then assigned to individual stations along the manufacturing plant floor.

Companies can also design products with their assembly in mind, referred to as concurrent engineering. This allows the company to start the manufacture of a new product that has been designed with mass production in mind, with the tasks, task order and assembly line layout already predetermined. This can significantly reduce the lead time between the initial product design release and the final product roll out.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Make To Assemble - MTA

    When manufacturers assemble the stored parts of products only ...
  2. Mass Production

    Mass production if the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized ...
  3. Manufacturing Production

    Manufacturing production refers to the methodology of how to ...
  4. Assembly Service

    Combining a number of small shipments from multiple parties into ...
  5. Manufacturing

    Manufacturing is the processing of raw materials into finished ...
  6. Activity Center

    An activity center is a designated cost accounting area where ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    What It Takes To Be "Made In The USA"

    Discover the rules and standards behind the "Made in the USA" label.
  2. Investing

    Automation Accelerates: 3D Printing Comes to Detroit

    Ford's move into 3D printing could cut cost, waste, weight – and jobs.
  3. Investing

    What Happens to GM's Business When Union Members Strike?

    Familiarize yourself with how a union worker’s strike could affect GM’s bottom line, directly after the strike and into the future.
  4. Insights

    How Productivity And Globalization Affect The Economy

    The systems designed to track the national economy is flawed. Discover the impacts of globalization.
  5. Insights

    Jobless Growth: Are You Prepared?

    Economic growth doesn't always mean employment growth. Learn about how the jobless growth economy affects workers and investors.
  6. Financial Advisor

    What's Behind the Decline in Productivity Numbers? 

    There are several theories and hypotheses about low productivity numbers in the American economy. This article examines some of them.
  7. Investing

    Apple In Talks To Start Manufacturing In India

    The goal: toaccess the world's second-largest smartphone market.
  8. Personal Finance

    Most Popular Outsourced Jobs

    The reasons behind outsourcing vary, and can create more efficient processes and products.
  9. Small Business

    Time Management Practices to Master Before Starting Your Own Business

    Learn how Pareto analysis, the ABC method, the Eisenhower method and the POSEC method can help small business owners effectively manage their time.
  10. Investing

    Understanding Marginal Cost of Production

    Marginal cost of production is an economics term that refers to the change in production costs resulting from producing one more unit.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How can I calculate prime costs?

    Learn about the prime cost formula and how to determine which production expenses are included in the calculation of the ... Read Answer >>
  2. What are some ways a company can expand its product line?

    Understand what a product line is and why it's important. Learn about specific ways in which a company can expand its product ... Read Answer >>
  3. Who are Ford's (F) main suppliers?

    Explore the history and current operations of Ford Motor Co. and discover some of its primary global parts suppliers. Read Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between cost and price?

    Consider how cost affects a product's price. Corporate expenses and the current cost of living both impact the final sticker ... Read Answer >>
  5. What is 'capital' in relation to the factors of production?

    Find out what economists mean by physical capital, how it contributes to the productivity of labor and why it is a crucial ... Read Answer >>
  6. What are the differences between product bundling and product lines?

    Understand the differences between product bundling and product lines. Learn why a company would want to expand its product ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Receivables Turnover Ratio

    Receivables turnover ratio is an accounting measure used to quantify a firm's effectiveness in extending credit and in collecting ...
  2. Treasury Yield

    Treasury yield is the return on investment, expressed as a percentage, on the U.S. government's debt obligations.
  3. Return on Assets - ROA

    Return on assets (ROA) is an indicator of how profitable a company is relative to its total assets.
  4. Fibonacci Retracement

    A term used in technical analysis that refers to areas of support (price stops going lower) or resistance (price stops going ...
  5. Ethereum

    Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables SmartContracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built ...
  6. Cryptocurrency

    A digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of ...
Trading Center