What is Mass Production?

Mass production is the manufacture of large quantities of standardized products, frequently using assembly line or automation technology. Mass production refers to the production of a large number of similar products efficiently and typically is characterized by some type of mechanization to achieve high volume, detailed organization of materials flow, careful control of quality standards and division of labor.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mass Production

If stringently monitored, mass production typically results in high-accuracy assembly as production line machines have fixed parameters. Labor costs often are lower for mass-produced products because assembly line production with automated processes requires fewer workers.

Products that are mass-produced are assembled at a quicker rate due to increased automation and efficiency. This helps with prompt distribution and marketing of an organization's products with the potential to create a competitive advantage and higher profits. For example, McDonald's has a competitive advantage due to the speed at which it can produce a meal for time-conscious customers.

However, not everything about mass production is beneficial. Establishing an automated assembly line is typically capital-intensive, requiring a lot of time and resources up front. If there is a production design error, extensive costs may be required to redesign and rebuild mass production processes. Changes also 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 difficult to respond to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory change that requires the production process to be altered. Additionally, if one area of mass production is interrupted, the entire production process may be affected.

While mass production can save on labor costs, employees who remain as part of an assembly line may lack motivation because tasks are repetitive. This can lead to low employee morale and increased levels of turnover.

Fast Facts

  • Mass production also is referred to as flow production, repetitive flow production, series production or serial production.
  • 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 the large-scale demand for mass-produced products created at a low cost with small workforces.
  • Manufacturers are experimenting with three-dimensional printers to see how they can be used in the mass production of everyday products.

Real World Example of Mass Production

Henry Ford pioneered the moving assembly line in 1913 when he installed one for construction of the Model T. The reduced manufacturing time for parts allowed Ford to apply the same method to chassis assembly. The time it took to build one immediately dropped from more than 12 hours to 2 1/2 hours.

Ford continued to refine the process, even hiring someone who studied the way people moved most efficiently. By 1924, Ford had built 10 million Model Ts. This resulted in automobiles that were substantially more affordable for the general public, as opposed to being luxury items only a limited number of people could afford.