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What is an Assembly Plant?

Patrick Roland
By Patrick Roland
Updated May 17, 2024
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An assembly plant is a factory that takes raw materials or semi-finished goods and creates a finished product that is ready for sale. The products made in assembly plants range from enormous trucks to tiny microchips. Anything that has been mass produced was more than likely created at an assembly plant. This method of production cuts costs with its efficiency and helps increase revenue by producing large numbers of products.

One of the most common types is the automobile assembly plant. Since the early 1900s, these have been innovative testing grounds for improving speed, quality and production and for lowering costs. In most cases, the various parts that go into an automobile or truck are created at smaller assembly plants and sent to the main location for completion. For example, a plant might receive items such as engine components, windshields, seats, steel frames and more for assembly. By taking the various pieces and applying them to an assembly line, the factory produces vehicles in a fraction of the time it would take to assemble a single car individually.

A different example would be an aluminum can assembly plant. Instead of receiving semi-completed pieces as an automobile factory does, an aluminum can complex would produce the finished product in-house, using only raw materials. In this case, a large roll of flat aluminum is shipped to the production factory, then uncoiled and run through a series of machines. By pressing and pounding and shaping this raw aluminum, the factory is able to independently produce finished aluminum cans for food and beverage consumption.

Many assembly plants have evolved over the years. Where manufacturing plants once were powered by expensive, labor-intensive fuels such as coal, many modern factories operate on electricity and are much cleaner and cheaper to operate. The logic behind assembly lines also has improved with the technology. For example, the job of bolting tires onto a new car at an auto assembly plant that was once done by hand with a ratchet is now performed in a matter of seconds using air-powered tools. Every advance in technology and technique has been implemented in an attempt to keep the plant operating efficiently.

An assembly plant thrives on taking materials and creating a finished product by utilizing technology and efficiency. Plants have been used for years and have been in a constant state of change during that time. From automobiles to soda cans, these factories are responsible for making an impressive array of items.

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Discussion Comments

By titans62 — On Jul 08, 2011

I have seen dozens of factories portrayed in movies and commercials. How close do these assembly plants come to reality?

Is it really like the I Love Lucy episode where she can't keep up with the line of chocolates? I'm also curious about how many injuries happen in a typical factory.

Obviously, I've never worked in a factory, but I am interested to know more.

By cardsfan27 — On Jul 08, 2011

I've heard that Henry Ford was the first person to implement the assembly line. Is this true?

Someone also told me a story that Ford once decided that by removing one or two welds from every car, they were just as safe, but he could save thousands of dollars a year. Assuming this is a true story, he certainly was a brilliant business man.

By TreeMan — On Jul 06, 2011

@Izzy78 - I understand your frustration, especially given how poor the economy has been the past few years.

From an economic point of view, though, there are a lot of benefits for Americans whether they are being immediately realized or not. Probably the most important is that we get cheaper goods. The other is that America as a whole should be progressing.

Just one example from my life that makes me say this: When I was younger, my mother worked in an automotive assembly plant that was closed when the work was outsourced to Mexico. She took the opportunity to go back to college and finish her degree in computer programming, and she now has a very nice job that she loves. Plus, she makes a lot more than she did in the factory.

Obviously, she was one of the lucky ones, but there can be good stories that come out of bad situations.

By Izzy78 — On Jul 05, 2011

It is a shame that so many assembly plants are being shut down and the work outsourced to other countries.

Even the Toyota assembly plants that claim to build cars and trucks in America just bring together the parts that have been manufactured in other countries. I know a lot of other companies do this, as well.

Am I the only one who feels this way, and is there any benefit to sending factories across the border and overseas?

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