Batch manufacturing refers to the production of a specific quantity of identical items in a series of processes. This style of manufacturing may be driven by the steps necessary to produce a completed product or it may be a function of the amount of materials that can be handled at one time by a set of machinery. While batch manufacturing is necessary in some situations, it can result in inefficiency due to the time required to reset machinery before a new batch can begin. For items requiring multiple production stages, scheduling is essential to assure that items that have completed one section of the process are not backed up waiting for the next function. Successful batch manufacturing also relies on good operator training, proper equipment maintenance, and computerized control.
When a company sets up a batch process, it must evaluate the stages to be completed in order to produce a finished item. If the machinery of a production step can rely on a continuous supply of raw material, the batch process is not restricted in that section. In contrast, if a batch of material sufficient to create a certain number of units must be mixed and heated before it can move on to the next production point, the process cannot continue until the mixed batch of material is ready. Implicit in batch manufacturing is the concept of goods moving from one station to another as each function is completed.
A significant amount of time in batch manufacturing can be required to reset machinery, switch raw materials, or quality test the first samples from the batch. This is referred to as downtime and is a measure of the efficiency of the production design. Computerized management and control software can aid workers to achieve smooth transfers from one type of goods to another.
Balancing the throughput is also important in batch manufacturing. If the first station can produce 250 units in ten minutes, and the second station can produce 500 units in thirty minutes, 750 units will be completed in the first stage in the time that the second stage produces 500. This imbalance will result in a backlog of inventory. The reverse situation will result in machinery at the second station sitting idle and waiting for product to come out of the first station. A balanced production line produces equivalent quantities in similar time frames to keep the goods moving.
The careful scheduling of maintenance to support the production line can reduce the chance of equipment breakdown and the resulting interruption of batch manufacturing. Well-trained workers can recognize problems and respond quickly to limit the downtime. Computer analysis of the throughput improves consistency and alerts employees to off-specification materials.