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What is a Production Line?

By Larry Ray Palmer
Updated May 17, 2024
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A production line, also called an assembly line or factory line, refers to the organized path of assembly for a product. In most cases, the production line centers on a conveyor belt or other mechanical system that physically moves the product from one station to the next, and it is a common misnomer to call this conveyor a production line. At each station in the production process, a factory worker or machine adds a piece to the finished product, performs a quality control check or some other job that is essential to the completion of the project.

The first production lines were not used for the assembly of products. The original concept of the production line was used to turn raw products, such as cotton fibers, into usable goods by assigning workers individual roles in the process. From this concept, the automated assembly line used in modern manufacturing was born.

The production line was first conceptualized by Eli Whitney, but the concept did not see its full fruition until 1913, when Henry Ford brought the concept to work in the mass production of automobiles. Using the production line concept, Ford was able to create a moving line of cars in various stages of assembly that passed by the factory worker's stations. As the cars arrived at each station, another component was added, and the car was then sent to the next station.

With production lines, mass production became a much simpler task, and many man-hours were eliminated for each automobile produced. This allowed the manufacturing of automobiles that were affordable at a rate that could keep up with the public demand for the new technology. Witnessing Ford's success, many other manufacturers began to implement the production line concept in their own organizations, thus making the process the industry standard.

As production lines have been further streamlined over the years that followed, manufacturers have been able to create more advanced technology and other products using less labor. Mass production via production line assembly has created lower prices and higher quality for the end products of the manufacturing process. In some cases, the production-line process has become so streamlined that human factory workers have been replaced by machines that can further cut costs and increase productivity. This automation of the process has made it possible to remove the human element from dangerous jobs and use machines to complete tasks that formerly required a human factory worker to risk life or limb.

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Discussion Comments
By anon359416 — On Dec 17, 2013

That is pretty cool. I personally want to stick to making wind chimes to sell online. I love carving wood and working with scrap metal, but working with teeth would be pretty hard, but I am glad that people are willing to do it.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 15, 2011

Aren't production lines most effective for putting together electronics?

I feel like it wouldn't be as cost efficient if you are producing something simpler like food products or clothes or something. Only for things that have parts that have to be put together would a production line work. And I guess for packing as well.

And why does it seem that products that require production lines are produced in developing countries like China and Mexico? Almost all electronics are assembled in developing nations. Is this because people need to work on them and labor is cheaper in those countries?

And does this mean that the more wealthy and developed a nation is, the less it's going to rely on production lines? I haven't heard of many companies in Europe of Canada for example that use production lines.

What do you think?

By serenesurface — On Jul 14, 2011

If the production line hadn't been introduced in the auto industry, people couldn't have afforded to buy them. The reason that the production line was such a big deal is because it reduced production costs. Cars could be made for cheaper and they could be sold for cheaper. If it wasn't for the production line, American families wouldn't have had cars for quite a few more years. I'm sure the American economy would have suffered as well.

By ysmina — On Jul 13, 2011

I think most companies would still prefer people to work on production lines rather than machines. Machines might be faster but they can't control for mistakes and damages. That would increase the number of faulty products and the company would lose money.

The bad part about production line workers is that they have to do the same exact movements over and over again hundreds of times in a day. It's not an easy job. Even in the beginning of production lines, when Ford first started using it, people realized that it is damaging to health. That's why Ford would give additional benefits to its workers.

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