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What is manufacturing?


Manufacture is to make, and manufacturing the process of making. The whole chain starting with raw materials and going through delivery to the final client might be considered in this process. However, it is more usual to consider the manufacturing process as beginning with material that has received some processing, and ending with delivery to a client (often a retailer). In this context, we may make steel sheet or planks of timber (e.g. process raw materials) but we manufacture cars or furniture.

Manufacturing can involve, in part or in total, the following activities:

  • Marketing
  • Contracting
  • Development (design)
  • Production
    - planning (including procedure development)
    - fabrication
    - assembly
    - testing
    - packaging
  • Support

A number of organisations may be involved, as sub-contractors, in the manufacture of a particular product.

The cost associated with joining processes is often small compared with the total manufacturing costs (e.g. welding accounts for around 10% of the cost of a super-tanker) but the value added is highly significant (no welding, no ship).

There is continually a drive to improve the manufacturing process with the aim of producing products which are fit-for-purpose and right-first-time. Techniques or tools such as Design for Manufacture, Lean Manufacturing, Design for SixSigma, and Discrete Event Simulation are used to help companies reduce costs, increase productivity and improve competitiveness. It is important to note that these improvement techniques involve all aspects of the manufacturing process and do not simply focus on particular processing techniques.

Further information

What is 'Lean Manufacturing' and how does it differ from 'Just-in-Time Manufacturing (JIT)'?
What is 'Design for Manufacture (DFM)'?
What is advanced manufacturing?
What is Flexible Manufacturing?

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