What Is Mass Production?

Mass production is the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized products, often using assembly lines or automation technology. Mass production facilitates the efficient production of a large number of similar products. Mass production is also referred to as flow production, repetitive flow production, series production or serial production.

In mass production, mechanization is used to achieve high volume, detailed organization of material flow, careful control of quality standards, and division of labor. An early example of the demand for standardized products in large quantities came from military organizations and their need for uniforms and other supplies. Precision machining equipment has led to large-scale demand for mass-produced products created cheaply with small workforces.

Key Takeaways

  • Mass production is the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized products, often using assembly lines or automation technology.
  • Mass production has many advantages, such as producing a high level of precision, lower costs from automation and fewer workers, higher levels of efficiency, and prompt distribution and marketing of an organization's products.
  • Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, developed the assembly line technique of mass production in 1913.

Advantages of Mass Production

Mass production has many advantages. If production is stringently monitored, mass production can result in a high level of precision because production line machines have preset parameters. Mass production also results in lower costs because the automated assembly line production process requires fewer workers.

In addition, mass production can create higher levels of efficiency because mass-produced items can be assembled at a quicker rate through automation. Rapid assembly aids the prompt distribution and marketing of an organization's products that, in turn, can create a competitive advantage and higher profits for a company. For example, McDonald's (MCD) has a competitive advantage in the fast-food industry because of the speed at which it can produce a meal for time-conscious customers.

Disadvantages of Mass Production

However, not everything about mass production is beneficial. Establishing an automated assembly line is capital-intensive and requires a significant upfront investment of time and resources. If there is an error in the production design, an extensive investment of time and money may be necessary to redesign and rebuild mass production processes. 

A revision of the mass production processes may be required for reasons other than errors. For example, if a pharmaceutical company has a comprehensive assembly line in place for the production of a popular drug, it would be time-consuming and expensive for them to respond to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory change requiring a different production process.

While an advantage of mass production is that it can reduce labor costs, employees who remain part of an assembly line may lack motivation because their tasks are repetitive. The boredom caused by repetitive work can lead to low employee morale and increased levels of turnover.

Manufacturers are experimenting with the integration of three-dimensional (3-D) printers in the mass production of everyday products.

Example of Mass Production

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, developed the assembly line technique of mass production. In 1913, he pioneered the moving assembly line for the production of the Ford Model T automobile. The reduced manufacturing time for parts allowed the company to apply the same method to chassis assembly and drastically reduced the time it took to build the Model T automobile.

Ford continued to refine the process, even hiring someone who studied the way people moved most efficiently. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford built 15 million Model T cars. As a result of Ford's mass production, cars became something that the general public could afford, rather than a luxury item that only a limited number of people had access to.

Henry Ford’s innovative production method is still used today by companies seeking rapid, standardized product creation.