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What Are the 6 Different Types of Manufacturing Processes?

Posted by Olivia Barnes-BrettLast Updated October 19th, 2022
— 6 minutes reading

Manufacturing methods are constantly evolving. Today, the industry reaches far and wide, with a vast range of types and subtypes of manufacturing. But no matter which area your business falls under, you’ll need to adopt one of the 6 types of manufacturing processes. 

What is a manufacturing process? 

Manufacturing processes are how we take raw materials and turn them into a finished product. That product might be stand-alone or a component for something else. 

A manufacturing process starts at the design stage, relying on the use of automated machinery, human experts, or both, to build the goods. 

Because so many industries rely on efficient manufacturing, a number of processes have been developed to suit various needs. These fall into six categories.

What are the 6 types of manufacturing processes?

The six types of manufacturing processes differ in how they deal with a product’s journey from start to finish. 

The manufacturing process.

For example, in some processes, every product undergoes more or less the same journey, with set stages and parameters. Other processes work a little differently, treating products as individual items and allowing for customization. 

Here are the six manufacturing processes (in no particular order):

  1. Repetitive manufacturing
  2. Discrete manufacturing
  3. Job shop manufacturing
  4. Continuous process manufacturing
  5. Batch process manufacturing 
  6. 3D printing

Until recent years, manufacturing processes were broken down into five categories rather than six. This is because 3D printing uses modern technology and its uses are still being developed today (more on this below).

What do these processes involve? 

1. Repetitive manufacturing

Repetitive manufacturing does exactly what it says, makes goods by following repetitive steps. This is ideal for consistent, high-volume production with few variations. The production line can run almost constantly if needed.

However, one disadvantage is that, if there is a fault with any part of the production, all other areas and all items will be affected, unlike in manufacturing processes with more variation

2. Discrete manufacturing

In discrete manufacturing, you view products as individual items. So, there are more changes to the steps than on a repetitive production line. This is beneficial for manufacturers producing a range of items, perhaps with changes in size or style. Car manufacturers might use this method.

The various products may or may not be very different from each other. But the more changes there are, the more time needed to set up the production line each time.

3. Job shop manufacturing

Job shop manufacturing has been described as the “ultimate case of discrete manufacturing”. This is because it treats each item as unique, allowing for customized details. 

This type of manufacturing process usually involves production areas or workstations rather than lines and is applied to small-quantity, or individual, orders.

Job shop setups are often associated with just-in-time approaches to manufacturing, when products are made as needed, rather than in advance.

There is no one size fits all manufacturing process. In order to choose the right one you need to understand your product.

4. Continuous process manufacturing 

In continuous manufacturing, materials are constantly moving through the production line, just like in repetitive manufacturing.

The main difference here is that continuous manufacturing generally uses raw materials that undergo some kind of chemical reaction or change. So, the process is a continuous flow.

5. Batch process manufacturing 

Batch manufacturing treats products as a group. When all the goods from one batch have finished a certain stage, they move on together. Every finished product from one batch should be identical.

We tend to use batch manufacturing processes when we need flexibility. For example, we can change the size of a batch, or customize a certain stage to add a design feature.

Because the products in a batch need to be the same, a lot of the work can be done by machines, with workers overseeing the process.

6. 3D printing

3D printing, sometimes called additive manufacturing, is one of the newest types of manufacturing to become popular. The process often starts with scanning an object or creating a 3D design on CAD software. A machine would then join materials layer by layer to create a physical version.

The 6 different manufacturing processes in relation to product variety and volume.

Guinness World Records says that the first patent for a 3D printer “was filed on 12 July 1967 in Denmark by Wyn Kelly Swainson, a 27-year-old American graduate student.” The student studied English literature and wanted to find a way to make 3D copies of sculptures, in the same way we can take photographs of paintings.

Recently, 3D printing hit the news when companies started to print visors for frontline staff during the pandemic. From established manufacturers to hobbyists, people with access to 3D printers banded together to produce the protective equipment.

Choosing a manufacturing method 

There is no one “right” manufacturing method. What works best for each business depends on a wide range of factors, most of which relate to either the product itself or the operational costs. These include, amongst others:

  • the materials you’re using
  • budget
  • how long each stage takes
  • the available tools
  • wastage
  • volume of products
  • product dimensions

To get a better understanding, take a look at the examples below.

Examples of manufacturing methods

Let’s imagine Mark, an amateur baker, makes the tastiest cupcakes in town and decides it’s time to go pro. So, what’s the best manufacturing method for him?

As explained by Food Scientist, Annelie, bakers in Mark’s position have options, which we’ve summarized below.

First, you’ve probably heard of batch baking. In batch baking, Mark would make a set number of identical cupcakes at once. This is a good option if he wants to sell several flavors of cupcakes in his own bakery. Working in batches usually means there isn’t a lot of set-up time when switching between products. He could also scale up or down the quantities of certain flavors as needed, too.

On the other hand, Mark might win a fantastic contract and find himself supplying his best-selling cupcake to supermarkets far and wide. In that case, Mark will need large-scale production for one item. A repetitive manufacturing process would allow him to meet targets by streamlining each stage and making sure there are no breaks in production.

Visual representation of repetitive manufacturing and batch manufacturing.

Or he could combine the methods and make the dough in batches but bake on a continuous conveyer belt. 

When it comes to choosing a manufacturing method, it’s important to do in-depth research, talk to experts, and consider what works best for your business, not just your competitors.

Managing inventory for manufacturing processes

Whatever manufacturing methods and processes you choose, it’s important to stay on top of inventory. This means knowing what you have, where it is, how to access it, and when you might need more.

Software like inFlow has assembly and BOM features, reducing manual checks by updating inventory in real-time. That way, you know exactly what you have in stock and how much you can make. 

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